Indicator: Forest area
Canada has 347 million hectares (ha) of forest area (2017). From 1990 to 2017, Canada’s total forest area decreased by less than half of 1%.
- Between 1990 and 2017, the area of forest in Canada’s northernmost ecozones remained almost unchanged (0.0 to 0.1% loss of forest area over a 27-year period). In these ecozones, forests are remote and sparsely populated.
- The highest deforestation rates over the past 27 years have been in the Prairies (6.5% forest area loss since 1990), Mixedwood Plains (2.0%) and Boreal Plains (1.5%). In these three ecozones, the leading cause of forest area loss has been the conversion of forest to agricultural land.
- As shown in the figure below, in most ecozones there has been virtually no detectible deforestation over the past 27 years.
Canada’s forest area, by ecozone
Canada's forest area has stayed nearly constant over the last 27 years. The Prairie ecozone has had the most deforestation, with 6.5% of the forest area lost since 1990. The next highest deforestation rates include the Mixedwood Plains ecozone (2.0%), and the Boreal Plains ecozone (1.5%). The remaining ecozones have remained virtually unchanged; each has lost less than one half of one percent of its forest area in the last 27 years.
Why is this indicator important?
- Knowing where and why permanent losses and gains in forest area occur is important for managing forests sustainably.
- Permanent changes in forest area impact forest resources and can influence ecosystem diversity and ecosystem services such as air and water purification and carbon sequestration.
What is the outlook?
- With a low rate of deforestation and a strong commitment to sustainable forest management practices, Canada’s forest area is expected to remain stable over the near-term.
- Climate change could impact the extent of Canada’s forest area over the longer term.
What reporting frameworks does this indicator support?
- Montreal Process (MP): 1.1.a [Select language]
- United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): 15.1.1
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. This methodology was applied to forest area as well as forest area by ecozone. Description includes the afforestation data used for adjustments.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2018. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020: Terms and definitions [1.01 Mb PDF].
- Definition 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 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:
- Baseline estimate of Canada’s forest area.
- National Forest Inventory. Standard reports, Table 4.1. Area (1000 ha) of forest and non-forest land by terrestrial ecozone in Canada. (accessed March 7, 2019).
- Baseline estimate of Canada’s forest area by ecozone.
- Publications referenced when considering the potential effects of climate change on forest area:
- Johnston, M., Campagna, M., et al. 2009. Vulnerability of Canada’s tree species to climate change and management options for adaptation: An overview for policy makers and practitioners. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Council of Forest Ministers.
- Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service. Changing climate, changing forest zones.
- Price, D.T., Alfaro, R.I., et al. 2013. Anticipating the consequences of climate change for Canada’s boreal forest ecosystems. Environmental Reviews 21, 322–365.
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