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How much forest does Canada have?

Canada’s forests cover 347 million hectares (ha) of land and make up nearly 9% of the world’s total forest area. Canada is the third-most forested country in the world by area. With nearly 10 ha/person, Canadians enjoy more forest area per person than most other countries in the world, over 17 times the world average.

How much of Canada is forest? / What is the composition of Canada's forests?
Two donut charts showing: 1) the percentage of freshwater area, forest area, and non-forest land in Canada, described below, and 2) a breakdown of forest land in Canada by tree composition, described below.
 
Text version - How much of Canada is forest?
Table showing the percentage of freshwater area, forest area, and non-forest land in Canada.
Area type Percent of total (%)
Freshwater area 8.9%
Forest area 34.8%
Non forest land 56.3%
Text version - What is the composition of Canada's forests?
Table showing the breakdown of forest land by composition: coniferous, mixedwood, broadleaf, or temporarily non-treed.
Forest area composition Percent of total (%)
Coniferous 67.8%
Mixedwood 15.8%
Broadleaf 10.5%
Temporarily non-treed 5.8%

What is a forest?

Canada uses the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' definition of forest for the purposes of national forest inventory reporting:

  • 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 at maturity

Land that is predominantly urban or used for agricultural purposes is not counted as forest.

A forest that has been harvested is still a forest

Forest land that temporarily has no trees is still considered to be forest when the disturbance’s impact is known to be temporary, and trees are expected to grow back. This situation occurs, for example, after a natural disturbance such as fire or after harvesting. Changes in forest area result from:

  • afforestation – the deliberate establishment of forests on lands previously not forested
  • deforestation – the permanent clearing of forests to make way for new, non-forest land uses
Coniferous forest with mountains in the background
Of the 0.01% of Canada's forest lost to deforestation each year, the causes are (2017):
Graph showing percentage of forest area lost to deforestation in 2017 by cause, described below.
Text version - Of the 0.01% of Canada's forest lost to deforestation each year, the causes are (2017)
Table showing the percentage of forest area lost to deforestation in 2017 for five causes.
Deforestation cause Percent of total (%)
Mining, oil and gas 37%
Agriculture 35%
Built-up 18%
Hydroelectric 6%
Forestry 4%

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.
    • Describes Canada’s deforestation monitoring system. Note that the system was initially set up for greenhouse gas inventory and forest carbon accounting purposes, so it uses the greenhouse gas inventory and carbon accounting definition of forest.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2014. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 Country report: Canada. [481 Kb PDF]. Rome, Italy.
    • Describes the methodology used to adjust the National Forest Inventory baseline estimate of forest area.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Global Forest Resource Assessment 2015 results.
    • This dataset was used to calculate Canada’s forest area as a proportion of the world’s forest area as well as forest area per capita.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2018. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020: Terms and definitions. [1 Mb PDF].
    • The definitions of forest and afforestation and other terms are described in this document. Note that Canada uses this definition of forest for most but not all purposes. A slightly different definition is used for the national greenhouse gas inventory and forest carbon accounting.
  • National Forest Inventory. Standard reports, Table 4.0. Area (1000 ha) of forest and non-forest land in Canada. (accessed March 7, 2019).
    • Baseline estimate of Canada’s forest area.
  • Statistics Canada. Table 15.6 Land and freshwater area, by province and territory. (accessed November 18, 2019).
Photo credits
  • Rocky Mountain forest view of Mount Rundle in Banff National park. Photo by Pgiam/iStock by Getty Images.
 

Table of contents — The State of Canada's Forests Report

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