Indicator: Deforestation and afforestation

Canada’s low annual deforestation rate has declined even further over the last 26 years, dropping from 64,000 hectares per year (ha/yr) in 1990 to about 37,000 ha/yr in 2016.

  • Between 1990 and 2016, less than half of 1% of Canada’s total forest area was converted to other land uses.
  • Conversion of forest to agriculture and hydroelectric development has declined in recent years.
  • Forest flooded during hydroelectric reservoir development produces large annual spikes in deforestation, as seen in 1993 and 2006 (see graph).
  • Although urban and rural planting initiatives are underway in many regions of Canada, the annual land area afforested has been very small relative to the total forest area in the country and is currently not tracked.

The National Deforestation Monitoring System (NDMS) tracks changes from forest land to other land uses across Canada. The NDMS can show trends by time, region and industry sector type.

Estimated area (hectares) of annual deforestation in Canada, by industrial sector, 1990–2016

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Graph data
Estimated area (hectares) of annual deforestation in Canada, by industrial sector, 1990–2016
Year Agriculture Forestry Mining, oil and gas Built-up Hydroelectric Total
1990 42,105 3,682 7,240 7,413 3,598 64,038
1991 38,140 3,600 7,207 7,239 6,402 62,587
1992 34,175 3,517 7,818 7,129 5,400 58,040
1993 30,210 3,435 7,916 7,046 37,323 85,930
1994 26,246 3,352 8,009 6,968 2,374 46,949
1995 22,281 3,270 8,100 6,961 1,493 42,104
1996 21,933 3,334 8,737 7,446 1,695 43,145
1997 21,586 3,398 9,096 7,450 2,014 43,544
1998 21,239 3,463 10,501 7,678 4,597 47,477
1999 20,891 3,527 11,059 8,310 6,646 50,433
2000 20,544 3,591 10,843 8,788 883 44,650
2001 20,196 3,655 10,709 9,089 882 44,532
2002 19,849 3,720 13,348 8,624 9,746 55,287
2003 19,502 3,784 13,543 8,937 3,061 48,826
2004 19,154 3,848 14,034 9,386 4,073 50,496
2005 17,982 3,432 14,234 9,038 4,370 49,056
2006 16,841 3,019 16,503 9,035 29,753 75,152
2007 15,701 2,606 16,493 8,554 3,625 46,979
2008 14,561 2,194 15,947 8,120 6,728 47,549
2009 13,420 1,781 13,763 8,020 4,987 41,971
2010 12,280 1,368 14,181 7,716 5,222 40,766
2011 12,280 1,368 14,599 7,306 3,033 38,586
2012 12,280 1,368 13,710 6,977 3,609 37,943
2013 12,280 1,368 13,708 7,054 10,128 44,537
2014 12,280 1,368 13,227 6,912 10,874 44,661
2015 12,280 1,368 13,407 6,739 5,882 39,676
2016 12,280 1,368 12,290 6,587 4,460 36,985

Why is this indicator important?

  • Forest loss impacts biodiversity, soil, air and water quality, and wildlife habitat.
  • Forests store more carbon than other ecosystem types and can be managed to mitigate 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.

What reporting frameworks does this indicator support?

Sources and information
  • Dyk, A., Leckie, D., et al. 2015. Canada’s National Deforestation Monitoring System: System description. Victoria, BC: Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service, Pacific Forestry Centre.
    • National deforestation estimates are calculated on a periodic basis using the method described in the National Deforestation Monitoring System description report. Figure data provided by the National Deforestation Monitoring System, special tabulation, April 30, 2018.
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada. 2018. National Inventory Report 1990–2016: Greenhouse gas sources and sinks in Canada. (accessed April 13, 2018).
    • Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National Inventory Report 1990–2016: 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 Reporting System.
  • 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).
    • Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service’s 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.
    • Values have been updated with new mapping, affecting estimates from 2004 onward, and totals now include hydroelectric reservoirs.
    • Deforestation by the forestry sector signifies the creation of new permanent forestry access roads.
    • Deforestation by the hydroelectric sector includes new hydro lines and reservoir flooding.
    • Deforestation by the built-up sector includes industrial, institutional or commercial developments as well as municipal urban development, recreation (ski hills and golf courses) and transportation.
    • Deforestation by the mining, oil and gas sector includes mine development for minerals and peat as well as oil and gas developments.