How much forest does Canada have?

Canada’s 347 million hectares (ha) of forest make up 9% of the world’s forests. Twenty-four percent of the world’s boreal forests are found within Canada’s borders. Much of Canada’s forest land is in remote, sparsely populated areas and is not under the same pressure to be cleared for agriculture or urban development as forests in many other countries. Canada has nearly 10 ha of forest land per person, more than 17 times the world average.

Forest area per capita (hectares/person) on the five countries with the largest forest area
Forest area per capita is a measure of the amount of forest land per person in a certain area.
 
Graph data
Forest area per capita (hectares/person) of the five countries with the largest forest area
Country Per capita forest area (hectares/person)
Russian Federation 5.75
Brazil 2.43
Canada 9.74
United States of America 0.96
China 0.15
World average 0.55

What is a forest?

In order to measure Canada’s forest, we need to define “forest.” Canada uses the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ definition of forest:

  • land spanning more than 0.5 ha
  • tree canopy covering more than 10% of the total land area
  • trees growing to a height of more than 5 metres

This forest definition does not include land that is predominantly 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 a natural disturbance like fire or after harvesting – is still considered forest, because trees grow back.

Deforestation occurs when forest is converted to a different land use, such as urban development or agriculture. Afforestation is the opposite of deforestation. It means that new forest is created through planting and/or seeding on land that was previously agricultural, urban, or some other non-forested land use. Between them, afforestation and deforestation are drivers of forest area changes.

Graphic showing that 77% of Canada’s forest area is boreal forest.
Sources and information
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2014. Global forest resources assessment 2015 – Country report: Canada [481 Kb PDF]. Rome, Italy.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2015. Global forest resources assessment 2015 – Forest Land Use Data Explorer. (accessed March 30, 2018).
  • National Forest Inventory. Standard reports, Table 4.0, Area (1000 ha) of forest and non-forest land in Canada. (accessed April 10, 2018).
    • The base estimate of forest area for Canada comes from the National Forest Inventory (NFI) 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 have occurred 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.
    • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations definition of “temporarily unstocked” (referred to here as “temporarily non-treed”) is provided in FRA 2015: Terms and Definitions, listed above.
  • National Forest Inventory. Standard reports, Table 4.2, Area (1000 ha) of forest and non-forest land by boreal zone in Canada. (accessed April 10, 2018).
  • National Forest Inventory. Standard reports, Table 5.0, Area (1000 ha) of forest land by forest type and age class in Canada. (accessed April 20, 2018).