Canada’s Boreal called the Amazon of the North

George River caribou in northern Quebec ~ photo by Valerie Courtois

George River caribou in northern Quebec ~ photo by Valerie Courtois

May 21, 2013 _ From caribou herds to landlocked seals, Canada’s boreal forest is rich in biodiversity treasures and just as worthy of global attention and protection as the Amazon, according to two leading conservation groups.

A report to be released Wednesday by the Boreal Songbird Initiative and Ducks Unlimited lists 10 top biodiversity hot spots in Canada’s boreal forest, which encompass large swaths of the landscape.

“We are trying to get people – especially people who live in these northern lands – to realize they have areas as special as the tropics,” says co-author Jeff Wells, science and policy director at the Boreal Songbird Initiative, a non-profit based in the United States.

More than 10 million birds a day are now streaming across the Canada-U.S. border to summer in Canada’s boreal, he says, noting that as many as three billion birds make the trip during spring migration. Continue reading


Modern-day Noahs seek to secure world’s seeds

The entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in northern Norway~ photo by Global Crop Diversity Trust,

The entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in northern Norway
~ photo by Global Crop Diversity Trust

As fighting intensified in Syria last year, armed gangs raided a major international research institute, stealing vehicles, computers and farm machinery.

Luckily staff at the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas in Aleppo had decided to duplicate the institute’s irreplaceable seed bank when turmoil first began in Tunisia and Egypt.

And when the unrest spread to Syria, they boxed up the duplicated collection of thousands of varieties of wheat, barley, lentils, chickpeas and bean and shipped it off to the “doomsday” vault in the Norwegian Arctic for safekeeping.

“The last little bit left Syria in a truck going over the border to Turkey just before all hell broke lose,” says Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which helps manage the Svalbard Global Seed Vault safeguarding the world’s seeds.

Nearly 750,000 kinds of seed, more than half the varieties on Earth, are now stashed in the frigid compound that’s carved inside a mountain.

And Fowler, a modern day Noah, said it is critical the job gets finished. Continue reading

Save the planet in 10 not-so-easy steps


JUNE 16, 2012

As Canada’s environment minister, Peter Kent, joins the thousands of delegates on the road to next week’s Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil, the message from leading scientists and environmentalists is grim.

The world and its seven billion human inhabitants continue “to speed down” an unsustainable path and must change course to avoid what has been described as “global suicide.”

“If current trends continue, if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail and cannot be reversed and ‘decoupled,’ then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation,” Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said last week as he released the latest global environmental outlook in the run up to the summit.

“Earth systems are being pushed towards their biophysical limits, with evidence that these limits are close and in some cases have been exceeded,” the 525-page report warns. Continue reading