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Riches of the Boreal Forest: Waterfowl Populations & Conservation Challenges

Program & Abstracts
Session Chair - Jane Austin, U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

The boreal forest of Canada and Alaska is a vast, largely unspoiled ecosystem with extensive wetlands that provide critical habitat for breeding, molting, and migrating waterfowl and waterbirds. The region can host up to 40% of the continental duck population in some years, and it is ranked third among the 25 most important and threatened waterfowl habitats on the continent. Species with >50% of estimated western hemisphere breeding population include trumpeter swan, American wigeon, green-winged teal, ring-necked duck, lesser scaup, surf scoter, white-winged scoter, black scoter, bufflehead, Barrow’s goldeneye, common goldeneye, hooded merganser, and common merganser.

In the last 20–30 years, this once largely undisturbed region has been undergoing rapid transformation as industries push to exploit its rich natural resources of timber, oil and gas, and minerals. Agriculture is also expanding along the parkland-boreal transition zone and in the Peace River area. Wetland systems important to waterfowl are being increasingly impacted by timber harvest, fire suppression, roads and other infrastructure, and exploration and development of oil, gas, and mineral resources. Changing climate also has and will affect wetland systems by altering permafrost, hydrology, and wildfires. Waterfowl biologists have noted substantial changes in the region’s breeding waterfowl populations over the past 20 years. Scaup have received particular attention because of their dramatic declines in population since 1985, much of which is focused in the western boreal forest. However, they are just one duck species for which the boreal forest is critical habitat. The remote, inaccessible nature of much of the region has limited our knowledge of waterfowl ecology there. However, important progress has been made in the last 5–10 years, and the region is gaining attention for waterfowl conservation.

The objective of this plenary session is to explore and discuss the trends in breeding populations, breeding ecology, and conservation and management challenges for waterfowl in the boreal forest.

Plenary 1. Riches of the Boreal Forest: Waterfowl Populations & Conservation Challenges

Oral Presentations - Tuesday morning, 18 August 2009


Time:   Title and Authors:
8:00 - 8:20   Importance of the Western Boreal Forest to North American Ducks

Stuart Slattery, Michael Robin, and Llwellyn Armstrong

8:20 - 8:40  

Declining Scaup Populations in the Boreal Forest: Testing the Climate Change

Hypothesis with Snow Cover Data

Mark C. Drever, Robert G. Clark, Thomas D. Nudds, Chris Derksen, and Stuart Slattery

8:40 - 9:00   Impacts of Disturbance Regimes on Boreal-nesting Waterfowl Communities

Mark T. Bidwell, Robert G. Clark, and Glenn G. Mack


9:00 - 9:20


Is the Eastern Boreal Forest a Low Priority Habitat for Waterfowl?

Marcel Darveau


9:20 - 9:40


Perspectives on Breeding Ecology of Scaup in Boreal Alaska

Kristin DeGroot, Perry Barboza, Mark Lindberg, Dan Esler, Joel Schmutz, and Kate Martin


9:40 - 10:00


Challenges for Waterfowl Conservation in the Western Boreal Forest

Stuart Slattery

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