Indicator: Forest area

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.

Estimated area (millions of hectares) of forest in Canada
Year 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015
Forest area 348.3 348.0 347.8 347.6 347.3 347.1

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.