Containing approximately one-third of all remaining global forests, the boreal ecosystem is a crucial store of carbon and a haven for diverse biological communities. Historically, fire and insects primarily drove the natural dynamics of this biome. However, human-mediated disturbances have increased in these forests during recent years, resulting in extensive forest loss for some regions, whereas others face heavy forest fragmentation or threat of exploitation. Current management practices are not likely to maintain the attendant boreal forest communities, nor are they adequate to mitigate climate change effects. There is an urgent need to preserve existing boreal forests and restore degraded areas if we are to avoid losing this relatively intact biodiversity haven and major global carbon sink.