Fires, humans threaten world's last few pristine forests

boreal forest

Increased human activity is leading to more such fires, not to speak of climate change which is only aggravating the danger in the boreal zone.

Researchers have called for urgent steps to preserve existing boreal forests to secure biodiversity and prevent the loss of this major global carbon sink.

The comprises about a third of the world's forested area and a third of its stored carbon, covering a large proportion of Russia, Canada, Alaska and Scandinavia.

That is now changing, say researchers Corey Bradshaw and Ian Warkentin, professors at the University of Adelaide (U-A), Australia and Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada, respectively.

"Much world attention has focussed on the loss and degradation of tropical forests over the past three decades, but now the boreal forest is poised to become the next Amazon," said Bradshaw.

"Historically, fire and insects have driven the natural dynamics of boreal ecosystems," said Warkentin.

"But with rising demand for resources, human disturbances caused by logging, mining and urban development have increased in these forests during recent years, with extensive forest loss for some regions and others facing heavy fragmentation and exploitation," he added.

The findings have been published online in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

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