How much forest does Canada have?
With over 347 million hectares (ha) of forest, Canada has 9% of the world’s forests. Forests dominate many Canadian landscapes, but cover only 38% of Canada’s land area. The forest area of Canada is stable, with less than half of 1% deforested since 1990. Although 77% of Canada’s forests are found in the boreal zone, 37% of Canada’s wood volume is found in our temperate forests.
What is a forest, exactly?
Forests are defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as land spanning more than 0.5 ha with trees higher than 5 metres and a canopy cover of more than 10% or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ. It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use.
Who owns Canada's forests? Over 90% of Canada’s forests are found on publicly owned land, including:
- 77% on provincial Crown land
- 13% on territorial Crown land
- almost 2% on federal Crown land
The remaining forest area is:
- privately owned (just over 6%)
- Indigenous-owned (about 2%)
Canada’s 347 million ha of forest includes treed lands, but also temporarily non-treed areas, such as recently harvested areas and recently burned areas that will regrow.
Forest management areas include forest lands, but also non-forest and inland water areas within the management unit’s boundaries. Some statistical reporting, such as the area of certified forest, refers to forest management area, rather than the forest area.
What is deforestation?
Deforestation is when forest land is permanently cleared to make way for a new, non-forest land use.
Trees outside of forests
Forests dominate many Canadian landscapes, but trees are also an important feature of non-forest landscapes. Wind rows and riparian woodlands (wooded areas around the edges of water bodies) are valued agricultural landscape features and provide habitat for a diversity of plant and animal species. Urban forests provide many environmental services to Canadians. It is estimated that Canada has more than 50 million ha of trees found outside of forests.
Sources and information
- Dyk, A., Leckie, D., et al. 2015. Canada’s National Deforestation Monitoring System: System Description. Victoria, British Columbia: 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. 2015. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 Desk Reference [4.55 Mb PDF]. Rome, Italy.
- This dataset was used to calculate Canada’s forest area as a proportion of the world’s forest area.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2018. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020: Terms and Definitions [1 Mb PDF]. Rome, Italy.
- This document describes the definitions of forest, afforestation and other terms. Note that Canada uses this definition of forest for most but not all purposes. For example, the national greenhouse gas inventory and forest carbon accounting use a slightly different definition.
- National Forest Inventory. Standard reports, Table 4.0. Area (1000 ha) of forest and non-forest land in Canada. (accessed March 11, 2020).
- Baseline estimate of Canada’s forest area.
- National Forest Inventory. Standard reports, Table 4.2. Area (1000 ha) of forest and non-forest land by boreal zone in Canada. (accessed March 11, 2020).
- Baseline estimate of Canada’s forest area in the boreal zone.
- National Forest Inventory. Standard reports, Table 15.2. Total tree volume (million m3) on forest land by forest type, age class, and boreal zone in Canada. (accessed March 11, 2020).
- Baseline estimate of Canada’s total tree volume on forest land in the non-boreal (temperate) zone.
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