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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.

A graph showing the percentage breakdown of who owns Canada’s forests, described below.
Text version

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.

 
Illustration showing a landscape viewed from above, containing areas of forest, non-forest land, deforestation and a forest management unit, described below.

Larger image [387 Kb]

Text version

Forest management units include forest and non-forest areas within the designated land area. Some statistics, like the area of certified forest, report the management unit area.

Areas that temporarily have no trees, but where the trees will grow back, are included in reporting Canada’s forest area. These areas include:

  • recently harvested areas
  • recently burned areas

Some areas that have trees are not counted in reporting Canada’s forest area, including:

  • windrows (along field edges)
  • urban treed areas

Deforestation is the permanent conversion of forest to another land use.

Long description

An illustration of a landscape viewed from above containing trees, wetlands, a town, a farm, a wildland fire scar, a recently harvested area and an area of deforestation. The illustration shows:

  • Forest land – a large area covered with trees. This area is included in calculating Canada’s forest area.
  • Forest management unit – a defined area containing forest and other land cover types managed according to long-term plan. The boundaries of the forest management unit are shown as a dashed line. The area within the dashed line includes a wetland, a recently harvested area, a wildland fire scar and a large area of trees. For some calculations, such as the area of certified forest, the total forest management unit area is reported.
  • A recently harvested area – an area of tree stumps with stacked logs nearby located within the forest management unit. Areas that temporarily have no trees, but where the trees will grow back (like recently harvested areas) are included in reporting Canada's forest area.
  • A recently burned area – an area of trees affected by fire. Areas that temporarily have no trees, but where the trees will grow back (like recently burned areas) are included in reporting Canada's forest area.
  • Windrows – a line of trees located along the edge of a farm field that provide shelter from the wind. This area is not included in calculating Canada's forest area.
  • Urban area with trees – an area of trees within an urban park. This area is not included in calculating Canada’s forest area.
  • Deforestation – an area of construction adjacent to a small town, where the trees are removed to make way for new homes. Deforestation happens when forest is permanently removed to make way for another land use.

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
 

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

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