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Ecological Framework of Canada
Boreal Plains Ecozone


  1. Poplar forest
  2. Pine forest
  3. Mixed Prairie grasses

INearly half of the Boreal Plains is occupied by productive forest land. The pace of logging increased after 1956 when the first pulp mill was established in Alberta. Others followed in Saskatchewan in 1968 and Manitoba in 1971. Technology improvements during the 1980s led to a 20-fold increase in the harvesting of previously little-valued Aspen. Between 1951 to 1991, the amount of forest logged increased by 82%. Pressure is mounting to find methods to log without causing irreversible damage to the environment.

Today, most of the ecozone is associated with the boreal forest. It is composed of White and Black Spruce, Balsam Fir, Jack Pine and Tamarack in some peatlands. Of the broadleaf trees, Aspen and Poplar are the most common, and Birch exists in some areas. Fire, the most powerful influence on the forest, determines distribution and growth rates. In a typical year, more than one million hectares burn, despite increasingly effective fire suppression and prevention efforts. In particularly bad fire years, such as 1989 and 1995, huge areas were devastated by fire. The forests are also affected by native insect pests and disease. Unchecked outbreaks of Spruce Budworm have killed extensive tracts of spruce and fir forests. Other insects, such as the Tent Caterpillar, have defoliated and damaged Trembling Aspen stands, most notably in 1988. Secondary organisms, including other insects and fungi, often attack and kill trees weakened by defoliation or drought.

The characteristic soils are grey Luvisols, developed in loamy conditions under a forest canopy. Lakes and wetland areas, such as sloughs and marshes, are areas of rich vegetation. In poorly-drained areas, extensive bogs have developed.