The northwest boreal region (NWB) of North America is a land of extremes. Extending more than 1.3 million square kilometers (330 million acres), it encompasses the entire spectrum between inundated wetlands below sea level to the tallest peak in North America. Permafrost gradients span from nearly continuous to absent. Boreal ecosystems are inherently dynamic and continually change over decades to millennia. The braided rivers that shape the valleys and wetlands continually change course, creating and removing vast wetlands and peatlands. Glacial melt, erosion, fires, permafrost dynamics, and wind-blown loess are among the shaping forces of the landscape. As a result, species interactions and ecosystem processes are shifting across time.
The NWB is a data-poor region, and the intention of the NWB Landscape Conservation Cooperative is to determine what data are not available and what data are available. For instance, historical baseline data describing the economic and social relationships in association with the ecological condition of the NWB landscape are often lacking. Likewise, the size and remoteness of this region make it challenging to measure basic biological information, such as species population sizes or trends. The paucity of weather and climate monitoring stations also compound the ability to model future climate trends and impacts, which is part of the nature of working in the north.
The purpose of this volume is to create a resource for regional land and resource managers and researchers by synthesizing the latest research on the historical and current status of landscape-scale drivers (including anthropogenic activities) and ecosystem processes, future projected changes of each, and the effects of changes on important resources. Generally, each chapter is coauthored by researchers and land and natural resource managers from the United States and Canada.