Canada has 9% of the world’s forests.
This amounts to 347 million hectares (ha) of forest, of which 270 million ha are boreal forest. This is enough forest to fill all of Cambodia, Cameroon, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Nicaragua, South Korea, Sweden and Uruguay and still have enough trees left over to fill the United Kingdom.
By volume, Canada’s forests contain about 47 billion cubic metres of wood. This is enough timber to cover the City of Montreal in about 36 storeys of solid wood.
How is “forest” defined?
Canada uses the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations definition of forest:
- land spanning more than 0.5 ha
- the tree canopy covers more than 10% of the total land area
- the trees can grow to a height of more than 5 metres
The definition does not include land that is mostly urban or used for agricultural purposes.
A forest that has been harvested is still a forest
Forest land that temporarily has no trees – for example, after harvesting or a natural disturbance such as fire – is still considered a forest, because trees grow back. This is not the same as deforestation, which is the permanent clearing of forest to make way for a new non-forest land use, such as agriculture or commercial development.
The opposite of deforestation is afforestation, which means that new forest is created through planting or seeding on land that wasn’t forest before. Afforestation and deforestation drive forest area change.
The current rate of land-use change from forest to other uses is very low in Canada. Between 1990 and 2015, about one-third of a percent of Canada’s total forest area was converted to other land uses.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2012. FRA 2015: Terms and definitions. [1.5 Mb PDF] 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.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2015. Global forest resources assessment 2015: Desk reference. Rome, Italy.
- National Forest Inventory. Standard reports, Table 4.0, Area (1000 ha) of forest and non-forest land in Canada. (accessed May 1, 2017).
- National Forest Inventory. Standard reports, Table 4.2, Area (1000 ha) of forest and non-forest land by boreal zone in Canada. (accessed February 14, 2017).
- 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).
- The base estimate of forest area for Canada comes from the National Forest Inventory (NFI) baseline report of forest and non-forest land in Canada.
- The estimate of current forest area (2015) was calculated by taking the NFI baseline estimate at the source above 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 definition of “forest” can be found in the FAO’s report FRA 2015: Terms and Definitions, listed above.
- 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.
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