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Indicator: Deforestation and afforestation

Canada’s low annual deforestation rate has declined even further over the last 27 years, dropping from 64,000 hectares per year (ha/yr) in 1990 to about 35,000 ha/yr in 2017.

  • Between 1990 and 2017, 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.
  • Spikes in deforestation occur when large forest areas are flooded during hydroelectric reservoir development, as seen in 1993 and 2006 (see the following figure).
  • Although urban and rural tree 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.

The National Deforestation Monitoring System (NDMS) tracks changes from forest land to other land uses across Canada. Deforestation does not include forest harvesting activities where the forest will be regrown.

Estimated area (hectares) of annual deforestation in Canada, by industrial sector, 1990–2017

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Graph summary

The annual area deforested has steadily decreased on average since 1990. Deforestation due to agriculture and forestry has generally decreased over the years. Deforestation due to built-up has remained fairly stable, and deforestation due to hydroelectric has fluctuated (with peaks in 1993 and 2006). Deforestation due to mining, oil and gas increased until 2007, after which it has generally been decreasing but not yet reaching pre-2000 levels.

Graph data
Table below displays the estimated area (hectares per year) of annual deforestation in Canada, by industrial sector, 1990–2017.
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 3,453 14,234 9,036 4,024 48,729
2006 16,841 3,061 16,503 9,036 29,468 74,909
2007 15,701 2,669 16,493 8,541 3,625 47,029
2008 14,561 2,277 15,948 8,094 6,728 47,607
2009 13,420 1,886 13,462 7,915 4,989 41,673
2010 12,280 1,494 13,550 7,542 5,030 39,877
2011 12,280 1,494 13,968 7,107 2,690 37,539
2012 12,280 1,494 13,009 6,869 3,058 36,709
2013 12,280 1,494 13,007 6,985 9,187 42,952
2014 12,280 1,494 12,530 6,825 10,777 43,905
2015 12,280 1,494 12,709 6,713 5,935 39,131
2016 12,280 1,494 12,718 6,577 4,602 37,671
2017 12,280 1,494 13,094 6,508 2,010 35,385

Why is this indicator important?

  • Forest loss affects biodiversity, soil, air and water quality, and wildlife habitat.
  • Forests store more carbon than many other ecosystems and can be managed to help mitigate climate change.

What is the outlook?

  • Canada’s overall deforestation rate is expected to decline further over time.
  • Deforestation caused by activity in Canada’s mining, oil and gas sector has increased since 1990, but conversion of forest to agricultural land 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, March 4, 2019.
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada. 2019. National Inventory Report 1990–2017: Greenhouse gas sources and sinks in Canada. (accessed April 16, 2019).
    • Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National Inventory Report 1990–2017: 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 [156.5 Kb PDF], FCCC/ CP/2001/13/Add.1 (January 21, 2002).
    • Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service’s National Deforestation Monitoring System and National 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 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.

 

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

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