Tag Archive: Canada


A slightly stylized image of a Viking longship sailing under the Northern Lights; most of the crew is asleep, a few are on watch as the vessel navigates scattered ice. I took a few liberties, ignored physics, for artistic effect, so that the mast could be seen through the sail.  As far as I know no Norse sails have survived to the present so I made a few guesses as to how they were made and the material used. It is known that sails were sometimes dyed red to suggest blood and intimidate enemies.

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under the aurora borealis

Sailing Under The Northern Lights

I have always been interested in both the Inuit, the Norse communities in Greenland and their explorations and their unsuccessful attempts to settle in North America. It is well known that the Norse were in what is now Canada and the United States, but researchers are unsure as to exactly where they might have come ashore, save for the site at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. While working on the picture I came across a related article, appended below; researchers have found strong evidence of a second Norse site on Baffin Island in Arctic Canada. It has long been thought that the Norse may have explored the Canadian Arctic and entered Hudson’s Bay.

I highly recommend that you visit L’Anse aux Meadows if you can. The reproduction Norse buildings are extremely interesting.  The site was discovered in 1960 by the husband-and-wife team of Helge Ingstad, and explorer, and Anne Stine Ingstad, an archeologist. Helge Ingstad also co-authored Land under the Pole Star. A Voyage to the Norse Settlements of Greenland and the Saga of the People that Vanished with Naomi Walford which describes the life of the Norse colonies in Greenland which survived for about 500 years.

lanse aux meadows

Reconstructed Norse Buildings at L’Anse aux Meadows

As usual this image is available on an ever increasing number of items at one of my Zazzle. stores. Just search for “viking.”

vintage vikings

Vintage Vikings

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/10/121019-viking-outpost-second-new-canada-science-sutherland/

Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada

Sharpeners may be smoking guns in quest for New World’s second Viking site.

By Heather Pringle, for National Geographic News.
For the past 50 years—since the discovery of a thousand-year-old Viking way station in Newfoundland—archaeologists and amateur historians have combed North America’s east coast searching for traces of Viking visitors.

It has been a long, fruitless quest, littered with bizarre claims and embarrassing failures. But at a conference in Canada earlier this month, archaeologist Patricia Sutherland announced new evidence that points strongly to the discovery of the second Viking outpost ever discovered in the Americas.

While digging in the ruins of a centuries-old building on Baffin Island, far above the Arctic Circle, a team led by Sutherland, adjunct professor of archaeology at Memorial University in Newfoundland and a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, found some very intriguing whetstones. Wear grooves in the blade-sharpening tools bear traces of copper alloys such as bronze—materials known to have been made by Viking metalsmiths but unknown among the Arctic’s native inhabitants.

Taken together with her earlier discoveries, Sutherland’s new findings further strengthen the case for a Viking camp on Baffin Island. “While her evidence was compelling before, I find it convincing now,” said James Tuck, professor emeritus of archaeology, also at Memorial University.

Archaeologists have long known that Viking seafarers set sail for the New World around A.D. 1000. A popular Icelandic saga tells of the exploits of Leif Eriksson, a Viking chieftain  from Greenland who sailed westward to seek his fortune. According to the saga, Eriksson stopped long enough on Baffin Island to walk the coast—named Helluland, an Old Norse word meaning “stone-slab land”—before heading south to a place he called Vinland.

In the 1960s two Norwegian researchers, Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad, discovered and excavated the Viking base camp at L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland—the first confirmed Viking outpost in the Americas. Dated to between 989 and 1020, the camp boasted three Viking halls, as well as an assortment of huts for weaving, ironworking, and ship repair.

Viking Yarn

As reported in the November issue of National Geographic magazine, Sutherland first caught wind of another possible Viking way station in 1999, when she spotted two unusual pieces of cord that had been excavated from a Baffin Island site by an earlier archaeologist and stored at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.

Sutherland noticed that the strands bore little resemblance to the animal sinew Arctic hunters twisted into cordage. The cords turned out to be expertly woven Viking yarn, identical in technique to yarn produced by Viking women living in Greenland in the 14th century.

The discovery prompted Sutherland to scour other museum collections for more Viking artifacts from Baffin Island and other sites. She found more pieces of Viking yarn and a small trove of previously overlooked Viking gear, from wooden tally sticks for recording trade transactions to dozens of Viking whetstones.

The artifacts came from four sites, ranging from northern Baffin Island to northern Labrador, a distance of a thousand miles (1,600 kilometers). Indigenous Arctic hunters known as the Dorset people had camped at each of the sites, raising the possibility that they had made friendly contact with the Vikings.

Intrigued, Sutherland decided to reopen excavations at the most promising site, a place known as Tanfield Valley on the southeast coast of Baffin Island. In the 1960s U.S. archaeologist Moreau Maxwell had excavated parts of a stone-and-sod building there, describing it as “very difficult to interpret.” Sutherland suspected that Viking seafarers had built the structure.

Clues Etched in Bronze, Brass, and Iron

Since 2001 Sutherland’s team has been exploring Tanfield Valley and carefully excavating surviving parts of the mysterious ruins. They have discovered a wide range of evidence pointing to the presence of Viking seafarers: pelt fragments from Old World rats; a whalebone shovel similar to those used by Viking settlers in Greenland to cut sod; large stones that appear to have been cut and shaped by someone familiar with European stone masonry; and more Viking yarn and whetstones. And the stone ruins bear a striking resemblance to some Viking buildings in Greenland.

Still, some Arctic researchers remained skeptical. Most of the radiocarbon dates obtained by earlier archaeologists had suggested that Tanfield Valley was inhabited long before Vikings arrived in the New World. But as Sutherland points out, the complex site shows evidence of several occupations, and one of the radiocarbon dates indicates that the valley was occupied in the 14th century, when Viking settlers were farming along the coast of nearby Greenland.

In search of other clues to help solve the mystery, Sutherland turned to the Geological Survey of Canada. Using a technique known as energy dispersive spectroscopy, the team examined the wear grooves on more than 20 whetstones from Tanfield Valley and other sites. Sutherland and her colleagues detected microscopic streaks of bronze, brass, and smelted iron—clear evidence of European metallurgy, which she presented October 7 at a meeting of the Council for Northeast Historical Archeology  in St. John’s, Canada.

Norse-Native American Trade Network?

Sutherland speculates that parties of Viking seafarers travelled to the Canadian Arctic to search for valuable resources. In northern Europe at the time, medieval nobles prized walrus ivory, soft Arctic furs, and other northern luxuries—and Dorset hunters and trappers could readily stockpile such products. Helluland’s waters teemed with walruses, and its coasts abounded in Arctic foxes and other small fur-bearing animals. To barter for such goods, Viking traders likely offered bits of iron and pieces of wood that could be carved into figurines and other goods, Sutherland says.

If Sutherland is correct, the lines of evidence she has uncovered may point to a previously unknown chapter in New World history in which Viking seafarers and Native American hunters were partners together in a transatlantic trade network. “I think things were a lot more complex in this part of the world than most people assumed,” Sutherland said. James Tuck agreed. “It’s pretty convincing that there was a much larger Norse presence in the Canadian Arctic than any of us thought.”

 

I have been trying to find out what else I can do with my graphics software and, as I like wood carvings and engravings, I am playing around a bit with that.  I thought I would start with a simple  “wood burning” or engraving of a grizzly bear cub in a tree on a piece of wood. Not too bad for a first attempt; even a bit of shadows and highlights around the edges.

ursa minor carving

Ursa Minor

Reindeer (Caribou), Rangifer tarandus, may suffice for once-yearly, late-December deliveries, but when you need a heavy lift capability nothing beats the Flying Moose, Alces volanti.  Not only is the Flying Moose able to lift a much heavier payload than is the Reindeer, but its wings allow for greater precision when landing as well as hovering capability.  A wild Flying Moose, sighted somewhere over British Columbia, is pictured below.

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flying moose - alces volanti

Alces volanti – the Flying Moose

The Flying Moose has been adopted by at least one mythical, all-purpose flying service in Talkeetna Alaska – Flying Moose Aviation (FMA). FMA’s motto is “Flightseeing, glacier landings, cargo, hunting and fishing charters.  We fly; tell us where you want to go.”  A leather patch, as worn by FMA bush pilots on their jackets, is below.

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flying moose aviation logo patch

Flying Moose Aviation Jacket Patch

Here is a rendering of a tree-covered, rocky island off the coast of British Columbia which I saw while aboard a ferry from Alaska. I have dubbed it Salish Island though it most likely has some other name.

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salish island

Salish Island

The word “salish” is used by linguists to refer to several related languages of the indigenous residents of the US Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. The term “Salish Sea” refers to an area consisting of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia. British Columbia’s Gulf Islands, of which the island in this image is a part, are located in the Salish Sea.

Busy with another project I almost let a month go by without posting something.

Here is a simple image I made a few years ago; two bull caribou strive for dominance, with the sun setting in the background. More of a study than a finished piece, though it does appear on a few items at my Zaazzle store. I like the colors and one of these day I will make a more polished version.

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two bull caribou strive for dominance

Caribou Duel

Continuing with this summer’s botanical series here’s a very tasty wild fruit that you have probably never heard of though species grow in Alaska, the Lower 48 and parts of Canada. I can attest that the Saskatoon makes for great pies and syrup. They can be added to cereal or muffins, dried as “raisins,” or just eaten fresh.

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amelanchier alnifolia

The Saskatoon, Amelanchier alnifolia

The Saskatoon tastes rather like a blueberry with almond added. There are several species in North America. At least one species is native to every U.S. state except Hawaii and to every Canadian province and territory. Two species also occur in Asia, and one in Europe. Amelanchier species can be anywhere from about six inches to sixty feet tall. The origin of the generic name Amelanchier is probably derived from amalenquièr, amelanchièr, the Provencal l names of the European Amelanchier ovalis. Members of the rose family, Amelanchiers are related to hawthorns, crabapples, cherries, plums, and peaches.

The various species of Amelanchier are known by several common names: shadbush, shadwood, shadblow, serviceberry, sarvisberry, wild pear, juneberry, sugarplum, wild-plum and chuckley pear. Pigeonberry was once also used. The name serviceberry comes from the similarity of the fruit to the related European Sorbus (Ash); it is also said that their flowers heralded the roads in the Appalachian mountains becoming passable, which meant that the circuit-riding preachers would be coming soon and church services would resume; also, that the ground was thawed enough to dig graves, and funeral services could be had for those who died over the winter. Shadberry refers to the shad runs in certain New England streams, which generally took place about when the trees bloomed.

The name Saskatoon originated from the Cree Indian name misâskwatômina (misāskwatōmina, misaaskwatoomina) for Amelanchier alnifolia, the species found in the Pacific Northwest, western Canada and Alaska.

In some areas the Serviceberry was included in pemmican, a combination of minced dried meat and fat, as a flavoring and preservative.

Amelanchier plants are preferred browse for deer and rabbits. Caterpillars of various moth species, as well as various other herbivorous insects feed on Amelanchier.

Saskatoons are harvested commercially and several named cultivars have been developed. Canadian growers are promoting the Saskatoon as a superfruit. Saskatoon berries contain significant Daily Value amounts of total dietary fiber, vitamins B2 (riboflavin) and biotin, and essential minerals, iron and manganese, a nutrient profile similar to the content of blueberries.

Saskatoons also contain significant amounts of polyphenol antioxidants, again, similar in composition to blueberries.

Bush Pilot

Pilots of Alaska’s small planes carry mail, groceries, and passengers to Bush villages and ferry hikers, hunters, and fishermen to some of the prime spots in North America. They often need to carry items that don’t fit in the airplane, such as canoes that ride like lampreys on the bellies of planes, or 60-inch moose antlers tied to struts.

One of the most common floatplanes in Alaska and Canada is the de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver.

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de-havilland_beaver

De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver

The Beaver was designed with the float pilot in mind. Its short takeoff and landing capability made it ideal for areas normally only accessible by canoe or foot. As well as having cabin doors, the cockpit has a pilot’s door on each side and full-sized doors on both sides of the aircraft allow it to be easily loaded no matter which side of a dock it tied up on. The doors are wide enough to allow for a 45 Imperial gallon drum to be rolled up into the aircraft. Beavers have large cabins and can seat eight people. Depending upon equipment, their useful load can be 2,100 pounds.

Because it often flies to remote locations, often in cold climates, its oil reservoir filler is located in the cockpit and oil can be filled in flight eliminating the need to scale the airplane to put oil in it and risk dropping something or someone in the water.

In addition to hauling passengers and freight around the bush the Beaver is used for crop dusting and aerial topdressing, and has been widely adopted by armed forces as a utility aircraft. The United States Army purchased several hundred; nine DHC-2s are still in service with the Civil Air Patrol for search and rescue. A Royal New Zealand Air Force Beaver supported Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition to the South Pole.

Despite the fact that production ceased in 1967, (1692 were built) hundreds of Beavers are still flying—many of them heavily modified to adapt to changes in technology.

The original Wasp Jr radial engine of the Beaver is long out of production, so repair parts are getting harder to find. Some aircraft conversion stations have addressed this problem by replacing the piston engine with a turboprop engine. The added power and lighter installed weight, together with greater availability of kerosene fuel instead of high-octane aviation gasoline, make this a desirable modification, but at a high financial cost.

The Beaver was deployed by the British Army Air Corps during the Troubles at least until 1979 for photo-reconnaissance missions. One of them was hit seven times by machine gun fire in South County Armagh, near the border with the Republic of Ireland in November 1979, while taking valuable photos of an IRA checkpoint. The border crossing where the action took place was known by the British Army as “Beaver Junction” since then.

Designed and built in Downsview, Ontario, the Beaver was cited as one of 10 Outstanding Canadian Engineering Achievements of the past 100 years. The Royal Canadian Mint commemorated the Beaver on a special edition Canadian quarter in November 1999.

Beaver has been featured in Hollywood films such as Never Cry Wolf, a film based on the true story of Farley Mowat’s journey alone into the Canadian tundra to study the relationship between wolves and and caribou. In the film, Early on the film provides a good look at the sights and sounds of a well worn Beaver. Brian Dennehy’s portrayal of a Canadian bush pilot captures the spirit and unique character present within many a cavalier bush aviator.

Tiger Lily

One of my favorite wildflowers because the color stands out against all the green this time of year.

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tiger lily

Lilium columbianum

There are several species of lily species in North America which share the common name “Tiger Lily.” The species native to the Pacific Northwest and southern British Columbia (Lilium columbianum) is also known as the Columbia Lily, and the Small-Flowered Tiger Lily.

The lightly-scented flowers can be yellowish, but are usually orange. The spots are a dark purple. It can be found in drier coastal meadows, forests, roadsides, and subalpine meadows.

Lilium columbianum occurs in open woods and forest openings from southern British Columbia south to northern California and east to Idaho, Montana and Nevada.

Several West Coast and Californian Native American tribes ate the species’ bitter or peppery-tasting bulbs. Dried Lilium columbianum is also eaten all around the world but it is not well known for it. Dried whole L. columbianum has a sweet and a sour taste. Unlike many native lilies, it is not particularly rare, but picking the flowers is discouraged as it impairs the ability of the plant to reproduce.

Concentration

A cougar scans for potential prey from a high vantage point somewhere in the dry interior of Washington State or British Columbia.

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Felis concolor

Cougar On The Rocks

The taiga during the short summer season. The taiga, covering a large art of the world, but little understood by most people, is threatened due to climate change.

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Summer in the taiga

An image of the North American taiga (boreal forest) during the short summer period.

The Taiga is a nearly continuous belt of coniferous trees across North America and Eurasia overlying formerly glaciated areas and areas of patchy permafrost. The term “boreal forest” is sometimes used to refer to the more southerly part of the biome, while taiga is used to describe more barren areas of the north approaching the tree line and the tundra biome. The term “boreal” is taken from Boreas, Greek god of the north wind.

The taiga is the world’s largest terrestrial biome accounting for 29% of the world’s forest cover. It stretches over Eurasia and North America. Winters are very cold , summers are warm, rainy, and humid. In North America it covers most of inland Canada and Alaska as well as parts of the extreme northern continental United States (northern Minnesota through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Upstate New York and northern New England). It also covers most of Sweden, Finland, much of Norway, lowland/coastal areas of Iceland, much of Russia, northern Kazakhstan, northern Mongolia, and northern Japan. However, the predominant tree species varies. For example, the taiga of North America consists of mainly spruces; Scandinavian and Finnish taiga consists of a mix of spruce, pines and birch; Russian taiga has spruces, pines and larches depending on the region, the Eastern Siberian taiga being a vast larch forest.

The growing season, when the vegetation in the taiga comes alive, is usually slightly longer than the climatic definition of summer as the plants of the boreal biome have a lower threshold to trigger growth. For the Taiga Plains in Canada, growing season varies from 80 to 150 days. Data for locations in southwest Yukon gives 80–120 frost-free days. High latitudes mean that the sun does not rise far above the horizon, and less solar energy is received than further south. But the high latitude also ensures very long summer days, as the sun stays above the horizon nearly 20 hours each day, with only around 6 hours of daylight occurring in the dark winters, depending on latitude. The areas of the taiga inside the Arctic circle have midnight sun in mid-summer and polar night in mid-winter.

The taiga experiences relatively low precipitation throughout the year , primarily as rain during the summer months, but also as fog and snow. Snow may remain on the ground for as long as nine months in the northernmost extensions of the taiga. Muskeg (bogs) occur in poorly drained, glacial depressions. Sphagnum moss forms a spongy mat over ponded water. Growing on this mat are species of the tundra such as cottongrass and shrubs of the heath family. Black spruce and larch ring the edge.

Taiga soil tends to be young and poor in nutrients. It lacks the deep, organically enriched profile present in temperate deciduous forests. The thinness of the soil is due largely to the cold, which hinders the development of soil and the ease with which plants can use its nutrients. Fallen leaves and moss can remain on the forest floor for extended periods in the cool, moist climate. Acids from evergreen needles further leach the soil. Acidic soil often limits flora diversity to little more than lichens and some mosses. Herbs and berries can be found in clearings and areas with a prevalence of deciduous trees. The boreal forest is home to many types of berries such as raspberry, cranberry, cloudberry), bilberry and lingonberry. Diversity of soil organisms in the boreal forest is high, comparable to the tropical rainforest.

Since North America and Asia used to be connected by the Bering land bridge, a number of animal and plant species colonized both continents and are distributed throughout the taiga biome. Others differ regionally, typically with each genus having several distinct species, each occupying different regions of the taiga. Taigas also have some small-leaved deciduous trees like birch, alder, willow, and poplar; mostly in areas escaping the most extreme winter cold. Southernmost regions of the taiga may have trees such as oak, maple, elm, and tilia scattered among the conifers.

Evergreen species in the taiga have a number of adaptations specifically for survival in harsh taiga winters, although larch, the most cold-tolerant of all trees,is deciduous:

– Taiga trees tend to have shallow roots to take advantage of the thin soils.

– Many species of tree found there seasonally alter their biochemistry to make them more resistant to freezing, called “hardening”.

– The conical or spire-shaped promotes shedding of snow and prevents loss of branches.

– Needleleaf – narrowness reduces surface area through which water may be lost (transpired), especially during winter when the frozen ground prevents plants from replenishing their water supply and dessication could become problematic. The needles of boreal conifers also have thick waxy coatings–a waterproof cuticle–in which stomata are sunken and protected from drying winds.

– Evergreen habit – retention of foliage allows the trees photosynthesize with their older leaves in late winter and spring when light is good but temperatures are still too low for new growth. Larch are dominant in areas underlain by nearly continuous permafrost and having a climate even too dry and cold for the waxy needles of spruce and fir. Dark needles promotes maximum heat absorption allowing for photosynthesis at temperatures lower than would otherwise be the case.

A wide variety of wildlife are found in the taiga. Insects play a critical role as pollinators, decomposers, and as a part of the food web. Many nesting birds rely on them for food especially in the months of February and March. The cold winters and short summers make the taiga a challenging biome for reptiles and amphibians, which depend on environmental conditions to regulate their body temperatures, and there are only a few species in the boreal forest including red-sided garter snake, common European adder, blue-spotted salamander, northern two-lined salamander, Siberian salamander, wood frog, northern leopard frog, boreal chorus frog, American toad, and Canadian toad. Most hibernate underground in winter. Fish of the taiga must be able to withstand cold water conditions and be able to adapt to life under ice covered water. Species in the taiga include Alaska blackfish, northern pike, walleye, longnose sucker, white sucker, various species of cisco, lake whitefish, round whitefish, pygmy whitefish, arctic lamprey, various grayling species, brook trout (including sea-run brook trout in the Hudson bay area), chum salmon, Siberian taimen, lenok and lake chub.

The taiga is home to a number of large herbivorous mammals, such as moose and reindeer/caribou. Some areas have populations of other deer species such as the elk (wapiti) and roe deer.The largest animal in the taiga is the wood bison, found in northern Canada, Alaska and has been newly introduced into the Russian far-east. There is also a range of rodent species including beaver, squirrel, mountain hare, snowshoe hare, North American porcupine and vole. These species have adapted to survive the harsh winters in their native ranges. Some larger mammals, such as bears, eat heartily during the summer in order to gain weight, and then go into hibernation during the winter. Other animals have adapted layers of fur or feathers to insulate them from the cold. Predatory mammals of the taiga must be adapted to travel long distances in search of scattered prey or be able to supplement their diet with vegetation or other forms of food (such as raccoons). Mammalian predators of the taiga include Canada lynx, Eurasian lynx, stoat, Siberian weasel, least weasel, sable, American marten, North American river otter, European otter, American mink, wolverine, Asian badger, fisher, gray wolf, coyote, red fox, brown bear, American black bear, Asiatic black bear, polar bear and Siberian tiger.

More than 300 species of birds have their nesting grounds in the taiga. Siberian Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, and Black-throated Green Warbler migrate to this habitat to take advantage of the long summer days and abundance of insects found around the numerous bogs and lakes. Of the 300 species of birds that summer in the taiga only 30 stay for the winter. These are either carrion-feeding or large raptors that can take live mammal prey, including Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard (also known as the Rough-legged Hawk), and Raven, or else seed-eating birds, including several species of grouse and crossbills.

Large areas of Siberia’s taiga have been harvested for lumber since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In some cases, after clearcutting of trees, topsoil was also removed for shipment to Japan. In Canada, eight percent of the taiga is protected from development. The main forestry practice in the boreal forest of Canada is clearcutting, which involves cutting down most of the trees in a given area, then replanting the forest as a monocrop (one species of tree) the following season. Industry officials claim that this process emulates the natural effects of a forest fire, which they claim clearcutting suppresses, protecting infrastructure, communities and roads. However, from an ecological perspective, this is a falsehood, for several reasons, including: a) Removing most of the trees in a given area is usually done using large machines which disrupt the soil greatly, and the dramatic diminution of ground cover permits large-scale erosion and avalanches, which further damage the habitat and sometimes endangers infrastructure, roads, and communities. b) Clearcutting removes most of the biomass from an area, and the various macro and micro-nutrients it contains. This sudden decrease in nutrients in an area contrasts with a forest fire, which returns most of the nutrients to the soil. c) Forest fires leave standing snags, and leave patches of unburned trees. This helps preserve structure and micro-habitats within the area, whereas clearcutting destroys most of these habitats. In the past, clearcuts upwards of 110 km² have been recorded in the Canadian boreal forest. However, today 80% of clearcuts are less than 260 hectares(2.6 square km). Some of the products from logged boreal forests include toilet paper, copy paper, newsprint, and lumber. More than 90% of boreal forest products from Canada are exported for consumption and processing in the United States. However with the recession and fewer US homes being built, that has changed. Some of the larger cities situated in this biome are Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Yakutsk, Anchorage, Yellowknife, Tromsø, Luleå, and Oulu.

Most companies that harvest in Canadian forests are certified by an independent third party agency such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forests Initiative (SFI), or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). While the certification process differs between these groups, all of them include forest stewardship, respect for aboriginal peoples, compliance with local, provincial or national environmental laws, forest worker safety, education and training, and other environmental, business, and social requirements. The prompt renewal of all harvest sites by planting or natural renewal is also required.
Climate change

The zone of latitude occupied by the boreal forest has experienced some of the greatest temperature increases on Earth, especially during the last quarter of the twentieth century. Winter temperatures have increased more than summer temperatures. The number of days with extremely cold temperatures (e.g., −20 to −40 °C) has decreased irregularly but systematically in nearly all the boreal region, allowing better survival for tree-damaging insects. In summer, the daily low temperature has increased more than the daily high temperature. In Fairbanks, Alaska, the length of the frost-free season has increased from 60–90 days in the early twentieth century to about 120 days a century later. Summer warming has been shown to increase water stress and reduce tree growth in dry areas of the southern boreal forest in central Alaska, western Canada and portions of far eastern Russia. Precipitation is relatively abundant in Scandinavia, Finland, northwest Russia and eastern Canada, where a longer growth season (i.e. the period when sap flow is not impeded by frozen water) accelerate tree growth. As a consequence of this warming trend, the warmer parts of the boreal forests are susceptible to replacement by grassland, parkland or temperate forest.

In Siberia, the taiga is converting from predominantly needle-shedding larch trees to evergreen conifers in response to a warming climate. This is likely to further accelerate warming, as the evergreen trees will absorb more of the sun’s rays. Given the vast size of the area, such a change has the potential to affect areas well outside of the region. In much of the boreal forest in Alaska, the growth of white spruce trees are stunted by unusually warm summers, while trees on some of the coldest fringes of the forest are experiencing faster growth than previously.

Recent years have seen outbreaks of insect pests in forest-destroying plagues: the spruce-bark beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) in Yukon and Alaska; the mountain pine beetle in British Columbia; the aspen-leaf miner; the larch sawfly; the spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana); the spruce coneworm.

Many nations are taking direct steps to protect the ecology of the taiga by prohibiting logging, mining, oil and gas production, and other forms of development. In February 2010 the Canadian government established protection for 13,000 square kilometres of boreal forest by creating a new 10,700 square kilometre park reserve in the Mealy Mountains area of eastern Canada and a 3,000 square kilometre waterway provincial park that follows alongside the Eagle River from headwaters to sea.

Two Canadian provincial governments, Ontario and Quebec, introduced measures in 2008 that would protect at least half of their northern boreal forest. Although both provinces admitted it will take years to plan, work with Aboriginal and local communities and ultimately map out precise boundaries of the areas off-limits to development, the measures are expected to create some of the largest protected areas networks in the world once completed.

The taiga stores enormous quantities of carbon, more than the world’s temperate and tropical forests combined, much of it in wetlands and peatland. In fact, current estimates place boreal forests as storing twice as much carbon per unit area as tropical forests.