Canada’s forest area of 347 million hectares (ha) has been quite stable over the past 25 years.
- From 1990 to 2015, Canada’s forest area has decreased by 1.2 million ha (0.34%).
- The net reduction in forest area over this period is attributed to the clearing of forest land for new, non-forest land uses (for example, agriculture, roads and hydroelectric developments).
- While forest area is relatively constant, forest cover within is much more dynamic. Forest fires, insect infestations, timber harvesting, growth and regeneration contribute to the ever-changing mosaic of forest cover within Canada’s forest area.
In previous State of Canada’s Forests reports, forest area was based on the National Forest Inventory (NFI) baseline survey (period of measurement from 2000 to 2006). Now, to provide trend data and to align with other reporting organizations, forest area is adjusted for known deforestation and afforestation to provide values for other reporting years. The next survey of the NFI is expected to be completed in time for 2020.
Why is this indicator important?
- Permanent losses and gains in forest area affect the long-term availability of resources, wildlife habitat, biodiversity and ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and water and air purification.
What is the outlook?
- The overall forest area is expected to remain stable over the next 10 to 20 years.
- Over the longer term, the effects of climate change on growing environments could redraw the boundaries within which forests grow.
- Federal, provincial and territorial governments are collaborating to track changes in forest area using a network of permanent photo plots across Canada. This information, paired with additional data from survey efforts focused on monitoring deforestation, is used to report on forest area and how it is changing over time.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2012. FRA 2015: Terms and definitions. Forest Resources Assessment Working Paper 180. Rome, Italy.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2014. Global forest resources assessment 2015 – Country report: Canada. Rome, Italy.
- National Forest Inventory. Standard reports, Table 4.0, Area (1000 ha) of forest and non-forest land in Canada. (accessed March 10, 2017).
- The base estimate of forest area for Canada comes from the National Forest Inventory (NFI) baseline report at the source above.
- The estimate of current forest area (2015) was calculated by taking the NFI baseline estimate and adjusting it for known increases in forest area (afforestation) and known decreases in forest area (deforestation) that occurred during the time since the NFI baseline data were collected. These adjustments are described in Canada’s country report to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations for Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015, listed above.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations definition of “forest” and other terms are provided in FRA 2015: Terms and Definitions, listed above.
- Additional information can be found at:
- Dyk, A., Leckie, D., et al. 2015. Canada’s national deforestation monitoring system: System description. Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service, Victoria, BC.
- Johnston, M., Campagna, M., et al. 2009. Vulnerability of Canada’s tree species to climate change and management options for adaptation: An overview for policy makers and practitioners. Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, Ottawa ON.
- Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service. Changing climate, changing forest zones.
- Price, D.T., Alfaro, R.I., et al. 2013. Anticipating the consequences of climate change for Canada’s boreal forest ecosystems. Environmental Reviews 21, 322–365.
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