Rudy Boonstra has been doing field research in Canada’s north for more than 40 years.
Working mostly out of the Arctic Institute’s Kluane Lake Research Station in Yukon, the U of T Scarborough Biology Professor has become intimately familiar with Canada’s vast and unique boreal forest ecosystem.But it was during a trip to Finland in the mid-1990s to help a colleague with field research that he began to think long and hard about why the boreal forest there differed so dramatically from its Canadian cousin. This difference was crystallized by follow-up trips to Norway.”Superficially they look the same. Both are dominated by coniferous trees with similar low density deciduous trees like aspen. But that’s where the similarities end,” he says.The real differences are most obvious on the ground, notes Boonstra. In Canada, the ground is dominated by tall shrubs like willow and birch but in the Northwestern European forests found in Norway, Finland and Sweden the ground is dominated by dwarf shrubs like bilberry.