A new wave of Canadian manufacturing is taking root in the country’s northernmost province, bringing with it new opportunities for manufacturing workers and small businesses.
But the boom is also sparking concern for the health of Canada’s most valuable woodlands.
The province’s most-watched environmental news story of the year was the release of an unprecedented report on the health and well-being of the province’s woodlands that found many of the region’s forests are in grave danger of becoming unsuitable for wood-cutting, the province said in a statement on Monday.
“The report by the Centre for Wildlife and Environment (CWIE) highlights the extent of the threat to the region of chronic stress and other human-caused impacts on biodiversity,” said Dave Ritchie, a spokesperson for the province.
“These include increased numbers of species in decline and habitat loss, with the greatest loss of habitat occurring to the southern and central forests.”
The report’s findings are consistent with earlier studies, which have found that the area is experiencing the worst impacts of climate change on its wildlife.
“While it’s not surprising to see the impact on wildlife, we are concerned that the study results are the tip of the iceberg,” Ritchie said.
The report released Monday by CWIE, which is an independent organization that advocates for conservation of wildlife and ecosystems, found that climate change is also causing stress to the health, well-known in forestry circles as “the barnyard effect,” on the northern region of the country.
It found that while the most-affected areas of the Canadian Woodlands have already experienced significant impacts from climate change, the report found that “significant changes in the health status of northern forests have been observed, particularly in the last 20 years or so.”
In the report, CWIE found that there is a higher risk of the health effects of chronic stresses, such as heart attacks and stroke, and chronic health problems such as chronic lung disease, which are not associated with logging.
Ritchie said the report does not look at the health impacts of logging on the forests directly.
But it does highlight the impact that logging has had on the region in recent years, particularly on the southern forests, which contain a greater concentration of the endangered eastern woody beetle.
“That’s where the majority of the mortality has occurred,” he said.
“We’re seeing a significant decline in the eastern wood beetle, so the impacts of that, that’s what we’re talking about.”
Ritchie added that the decline of the beetle, along with the health problems it causes, is being attributed to logging.
“It’s not just the health risks that are increasing; there’s the damage to wildlife,” he explained.
“It’s a direct result of logging.”
The health effects are already having a ripple effect on the industry in the area.
“We’ve seen an increase in health issues in logging-affected regions of northern Canada,” said Heather Campbell, a researcher with the Wilderness Society.
“The health problems in northern Canada are much worse than we’re seeing in other regions.”
Campbell said that the effects are particularly pronounced in the northern forests, where “the most impacted trees are in the most vulnerable areas.”
“We’re finding there’s a greater prevalence of mussels in the woodlands, and mussels can actually cause severe skin infections,” she said.
But Campbell said the health concerns have not affected logging in the southern woodlands as much.
“I think that’s probably because logging has been going on here for quite a while,” she added.
Ricky said the impact of climate is having an effect on forestry as well, and that the report is an opportunity to take action.
“There’s going to be a whole range of things that we’re going to have to look at, including the health outcomes of wood-related industries,” he added.
“But I think it’s a really good thing to get it all together.”
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