Industrial innovation and infrastructure as drivers of change in the Canadian boreal zone1 Academic Article uri icon

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  • Much of Canada’s industrial sector is driven by natural resources and relies heavily on provisioning services supplied by the boreal zone. However, the sometimes intensive processes used by resource-based industries and their associated infrastructure have significantly altered the region, creating concerns over the future socio-ecological health of the boreal zone. Addressing these concerns will require industries reliant on natural resources from the boreal zone to innovate their processes, management, and infrastructure to improve extraction efficiency while contributing to society’s increasing expectations related to sustainability. Here, we explore past, current, and future trends in industrial innovation and infrastructure in the boreal zone for forestry, mining, pulp and paper, oil and gas, and renewable sources of power generation. We assess the role of innovation on the future socio-ecological state of the boreal zone by considering interactions between innovation in industry and infrastructure and other key drivers of change in the boreal, such as atmospheric changes, changing demands for nonprovisioning and provisioning ecosystem services, governance, and demographics and social values. We present future scenarios highlighting three divergent trajectories of change in boreal ecosystems based on past and current states of innovation in industry and infrastructure. We suggest that minimizing impacts of natural resource extraction activities in the boreal zone will only be possible through innovation directly focused on reducing the human footprint on the landscape. Innovation in the information technology sector related to process, management, and end products within these industries and placing greater emphasis on cross-sectoral collaboration will be key to achieving this goal.


  • Musetta-Lambert, Jordan L
  • Enanga, Eric M
  • Teichert, Sonja
  • Creed, Irena F
  • Kidd, Karen
  • Kreutzweiser, David P
  • Sibley, Paul K

publication date

  • September 2019