Oh Canada

To: "" <>
Subject: Oh Canada
From: Con Boekel <>
Date: Fri, 9 Dec 2016 20:52:14 +0000

The Beaver is so retro!

I am thinking that Canada should choose a creature that has real environmental significance. My choice for Canada is the Mountain Pine Beetle. It has destroyed around about half the merchantable timber in the 18 million hectares of pine forests it has attacked. It is spreading its distribution eastwards, having crossed the Rocky Mountains in clouds by way of the wind vector. One thought is that it is doing well because the deep frost winters that used to suppress their numbers are now not as common as they used to be. Bark beetle explosions, and the consequent destruction, have been a northern hemisphere feature. In Canada it is estimated that the Mountain Pine Beetle (by desequestering carbon stored in the forests it has killed) has negated ALL the measures taken by Canada to date to reduce carbon emissions. There are many species of bark beetles and the Mountain Pine Beetle is only one of the species that appears to be appreciating the consequences of global warming.

In ecological term their activities are having three and possibly four significant consequences. The first is that in many instances they replace old growth forests with regrowth of the same species; the second outcome in some places is that the original forest species is replaced completely by a new species of forest; the third outcome is that they stuff up the hydrology of the forests they kill; and the fourth outcome, and this is still open to strong debate, is that they alter the fire regimes of the forests they kill.

They ought to be a salutary reminder that, just as global warming trends will not be linear, neither will various biotic responses be linear.

The Mountain Pine Beetle is, therefore, for Canada an appropriate innovative, agile and exciting forward looking symbol for the nation.



On 12/9/2016 7:22 PM, David Rees wrote:
And also Iceland, if one is talking about the Common loon. Several similar species also breed in northern Europe inc Scotland and turn up further south in winter.  I've seen a Black throated Loon several times in early spring on one of the big reservoirs near London Heathrow Airport!


On Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 6:14 PM, Virginia Abernathy <m("","virginia.abernathy");" target="_blank">> wrote:

But Loons also breed in the northern US. I studied them one year in Wisconsin. :)

Hi Martin
I’m a bit puzzled by the purported rationale for Canada choosing the beaver as opposed to a  bird, since the beaver is also to be found in the USA!
If it were up to me – having lived in Canada for 4 years in the 1960s and 70s – I’d have chosen the Loon, a beautiful bird with a haunting call which we saw and heard on many trips into the Canadian wilderness.
Kevin and Gwenyth Bray
m("","kevingwenyth");" target="_blank">
02 6251 2087
0406 376 878 (Mob, Kevin)
0409 584 342 (Mob, Gwenyth)
An interesting read, especially about naming conventions! 

I was also interested to see the comment
“We have an animal symbol, which is the beaver,” he said by way of analogy. “I would say that most Canadians don’t see a beaver in a given year.
Presumably that's because the people in Toronto don't see them.   We lived in Ottawa for a year, and beavers were common there, to the extent that City workers used dynamite to clear beaver dams built across suburban creeks so that they didn't cause floods in the Spring thaw.

I wondered why they didn't select an endemic bird, to which the simple answer is they don't really have one.  Dr Google offered a list of three species:
  • Labrador Duck (extinct)
  • Ross's Goose (overwinters in US so IMHO not really endemic); and
  • Harris's Sparrow(ibid).

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