Sunday, July 20, 2008

Word of the Week: boreal

Ontario will protect a huge swath of its northern boreal forest in an effort to fight climate change and save polar bears and other threatened species.” When I read this in an article in the Toronto Star on July 14, 2008, I thought to myself, “Gee, I wonder what kind of trees are in a “boreal forest”."

My confusion continued the next day (July 15th) when I read the lead in another story (by the same writer) in the Toronto Star. This one started out, “Ontario has made the largest conservation commitment in Canadian history, setting aside at least half the Northern Boreal region -- 225,000 square kilometres -- for permanent protection from development…”. Hmmm… capital N, capital B -- sounds like it’s a proper name. Now I’m really confused.

Unfortunately, an editorial on July 15th in the Toronto Star didn’t clear up my confusion -- it actually added to it. Here’s the first line of it: “For most Ontarians, the vast boreal forest that blankets the province's far north is little more than an abstraction.”

That makes me think (again) that a boreal forest is a type of forest. So, after that, I did what I should have done the first time I read about the boreal forest. I looked up boreal. Here’s how defines boreal: 1: of, relating to, or located in northern regions (boreal waters) 2: of, relating to, or comprising the northern biotic area characterized especially by dominance of coniferous forests.

Given this definition, my view is that unless the "Northern Boreal" forest is a proper name for a region, it’s redundant to refer to it as that, and it’s also redundant to tell readers that the boreal forest blankets the province’s far north -- where else would it be?


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