Indicator: Deforestation and afforestation

Canada’s very low annual deforestation rate has declined even further over the last 25 years, dropping from 63,100 hectares (ha) in 1990 to about 34,100 ha in 2015.

  • Between 1990 and 2015, one-third of a percent of Canada’s total forest area was converted to other land uses.
  • Some decreases in deforestation are associated with less conversion of forest to agriculture, roads and hydroelectric development.
  • Spikes occurred in 1993 and 2006 (dates not shown in table), when 35,000 ha and 28,000 ha of forest, respectively, were flooded during hydroelectric reservoir development.
  • Although urban and rural planting initiatives are underway in many regions of Canada, the afforested land area has been very small relative to the total forest area in the country and is therefore no longer tracked.

The National Deforestation Monitoring System provides estimates of changes from forest land to other land uses across Canada. Results are provided by time, region and industry type, allowing trends in forest land conversion to be better recognized and understood.

Estimated area (hectares) of annual deforestation in Canada, by industrial sector, 1990–2014
Sector Year
1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015
Agriculture 42,100 22,300 20,500 18,000 12,300 12,300
Forestry* 3,700 3,300 3,600 3,400 1,400 1,400
Hydroelectric 2,700 1,500 900 800 1,900 900
Mining 2,800 2,700 2,900 3,000 3,600 3,200
Oil and gas 4,400 5,400 7,900 11,100 9,900 9,800
Transportation 2,000 1,700 3,000 2,800 2,600 1,900
Industry 900 900 900 1,000 1,200 1,200
Municipal 3,900 3,700 4,300 4,600 3,200 3,200
Recreation 600 700 700 600 300 300
Total 63,100 42,000 44,600 45,400 36,300 34,100
Rounding of numbers may affect column totals.
*Forestry numbers result from the creation of permanent forestry access roads.

Why is this indicator important?

  • Shrinking forest cover has the potential to reduce biodiversity, affect soil and water quality, and impact wildlife habitat.
  • Forests also provide an important means of storing carbon, which influences climate change.

What is the outlook?

  • Canada’s overall deforestation rate is expected to decline further over time.
  • Deforestation resulting from activity in Canada’s oil and gas sector has increased since 1990, but conversion of forest to agricultural land uses will likely remain the largest cause of deforestation in Canada. These conversions are small relative to the overall size of Canada’s forests.
Sources
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada. 2017. National inventory report 1990–2015: Greenhouse gas sources and sinks in Canada.
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 2002. Report on the conference of the parties on its seventh session, held at Marrakesh from 29 October to 10 November 2001, Addendum, Part Two: Action taken by the conference of the parties, FCCC/ CP/2001/13/Add.1 (January 21, 2002).
    • National deforestation estimates are calculated on a periodic basis using the method described in the national deforestation monitoring system description report. For more information, see:
    • Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Services’ National Deforestation Monitoring System and Forest Carbon Monitoring, Accounting and Reporting System both define “forest” as all areas of 1 hectare or more having the potential to develop forest cover, with a minimum crown closure of 25% and a minimum tree height of 5 metres at maturity in situ. This definition harmonizes with the definitions found in the Marrakesh Accords of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, but is different from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ definition used elsewhere in this report.
    • Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National Inventory Report 1990–2015: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada is based on data and analysis from Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service’s National Forest Carbon Monitoring, Accounting and Report System.
    • All values reported are for the listed year.
    • Values were updated with new mapping, affecting estimates from 2004 onward.
    • Forestry numbers result from the creation of permanent forestry access roads.
    • Hydroelectric numbers exclude reservoirs. See the indicator text for magnitudes of deforestation resulting from reservoir flooding.
    • Industry numbers result from industrial, institutional or commercial developments.
    • Peat mines have been excluded, as they are below 100 hectares/year.
    • Municipal numbers include urban development.
    • Recreation numbers include ski hills and golf courses.
    • Total numbers are adjusted for rounding.