The Western Boreal Forest (WBF) is the second most important waterfowl breeding area in North America, next to the Prairie Pothole Region. This unique landscape is publicly owned and under the jurisdiction of Canadian federal, provincial, or territorial governments.

The Western Boreal Forest Program, had been supported administratively by the Prairie Habitat Joint Venture since 2001. The NAWMP Continental Assessment (2007) agreed that this vital area should receive greater attention, as did the 2007-2012 PHJV Implementation Plan. Following a special forum in 2008, the region was formally incorporated as a separate focus area under the PHJV, and approved by NAWCC Canada and the NAWMP Plan Committee.

Embracing conservation leadership in the Western Boreal Forest materially raised the importance of the PHJV in continental waterfowl conservation. New capacities were brought to bear from both NGO and government staffs and programs, but new challenges were also apparent. Much less was known about factors affecting waterfowl populations and productivity in the boreal forest, and new approaches were needed to secure habitats for the future. New science investments were thus essential to help guide these initiatives.

Improving spatial targeting of conservation delivery

Mapping wetlands

  • 17 remote sensing projects across the PHJV region
  • 200 million wetland acres mapped, with another 300 million anticipated in the next few years.
  • Wetlands have been mapped according to DUC’s Enhanced Wetland Classification System with 5 major wetland classes (open water, marsh, swamp, bog, fen) and 19 minor classes at a 30m resolution.
  • A Field Guide of the Wetland Classes in the Boreal plains Ecozone was developed to assist users to identify wetlands in the field (maintain user guide link)

Identifying Key Waterfowl Areas: Western Boreal Forest Decision Support System

Evaluating and adapting delivery programs

Testing key planning assumptions about how linear features limit populations through habitat fragmentation/predation and hydrologic impairment.

Assessing Relationships Between Linear Features and Duck Pair Settling and Productivity

  • Surveyed ducks across a gradient of road, pipeline, and seismic line densities
  • Sampled over 420 grids, 2.5 x 2.5 km2 each, >4,000 wetlands
  • Counted >17,000 pairs, 6,800 broods
  • Analyses currently underway

Fragmented Landscapes: Changes in Predatory Communities and Nest Success Relative to linear feature density. Collaboration between DUC and University of Waterloo.

  • Assessing nest site selection at multiple spatial scales
  • First large scale effort to identify boreal predators of duck nests
  • Testing assumption that as linear feature densities increase, associated travel corridors increase predators’ access to nesting habitats, thus shifting predator communities and reducing duck nest success
  • Still in field phase of project