Scientists Urge Canada to Protect Its Rainforests

Scientists to Canada: Protect Rainforests as Climate Change Insurance

Vancouver – A new book released this week highlights the urgent need to protect Canada’s more than 20 million hectares of pristine temperate and boreal rainforests. Found in British Columbia, Newfoundland, Quebec, and New Brunswick, these globally important rainforests absorb and store vast amounts of carbon. Scientists argue that protecting these rainforests is a critical insurance against climate change and are calling on the Canadian government to take this message to the upcoming global conference on climate change.

The announcement comes as the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), of which Canada is a member, prepare for the sixteenth conference on climate change in Cancun, Mexico (, following up on last year’s global summit in Copenhagen. Deforestation contributes more than the entire global transportation system in release of dangerous greenhouse pollutants. Though governments are working on ways to reduce these emissions through a United Nations collaborative program (called REDD plus), the program is aimed only at deforestation in developing countries and does not include temperate and boreal rainforests that are the world’s forgotten rainforests due to ongoing logging. The United Nations also has declared 2011 “International Year of Forests,” calling on nations to celebrate forests and open dialogue on how to sustainably manage them .

The appeal to government representatives at the climate change summit is part of a new book edited and co-authored by Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist of the U.S. based Geos Institute ( titled “Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation”(for press access to the book: According to DellaSala, “Canada’s rainforests cleanse the air, purify drinking water, provide unparalleled hunting and fishing opportunities, and store vast amounts of carbon in giant trees, dense foliage, and productive soils. When these rainforests are cut down, much of their carbon is released to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide where it contributes to dangerous global warming. We have to stop treating these rainforests as if they stop at international boundaries and begin working together on our shared conservation interest.”

Canada’s rainforests include such notable places as the Great Bear, Haida Gwaii, and Clayoquot Sound as well as less well known rainforests along the windward slopes of the Columbia and Canadian Rockies and in Eastern Canada. DellaSala was part of a team of scientists that put together the rainforest book including two chapters on Canada’s rainforests. The book includes a global appeal to decision makers from rainforest scientists to conserve rainforests throughout the world as part of global discussions underway to limit deforestation.

Paul Paquet, Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s Senior Scientist, and one of the book co-authors, stated “”British Columbia contains approximately 25 per cent of the planet’s remaining primary temperate rainforest. Given the diminished and impoverished state of temperate rainforest globally, the importance of protecting what remains in BC must be elevated. Only limited protection now exists for BC’s coastal rainforest, with most of the irreplaceable highly productive and biodiverse old growth already having been liquidated. Consequently, from an ecological perspective a substantial portion of what remains needs full protection to compensate for what has been permanently damaged.”

Canada’s majestic rainforests have always been a core part of our history and culture, protecting them may also be one of our best bets for the ensuring a safe and healthy future,” said Faisal Moola, co-author of the book and Director of Science at the David Suzuki Foundation. “Keeping the carbon in the rainforest is better for the climate, better for nature, and ultimately better for our own wellbeing.”

While much international attention has been focused on BC, Canada also has lesser known rainforests in the east. “New Brunswick’s rainforests have been a prime target for conversion to tree plantations because of their productive soils and the high volume of wood they can yield, said David Coon, Executive Director of Conseil de Conservation. “We need to transform our relationship with the forest and embrace an ecological consciousness. Our future depends on it.”

Contacts: Dr. Dominick DellaSala, 541-482-4459 x 302; 541-621-7223 (cell)
Dr. Faisal Moola, 416-644-1032; 647-993-5788 (cell)
Dr. Paul Paquet, 306-376-2015
David Coon, 506-458-8747

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Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.