Indicator: Deforestation and afforestation
Since 1990, Canada’s low annual deforestation rate has declined even further, dropping from 64,000 hectares (ha) per year to about 34,300 ha per year in 2018.
- Between 1990 and 2018, less than half of 1% of Canada’s total forest area was converted to other land uses
- Forests flooded during hydroelectric reservoir development produces large annual spikes in deforestation, as seen in 1993 and 2006
- Conversion of forest to agricultural and hydroelectric land uses has declined in recent years
- While the annual area of afforestation is very small relative to the total forest area of Canada, efforts are underway to increase capacity to track the amount of afforestation occurring under urban and rural planting initiatives
The National Deforestation Monitoring System (NDMS) tracks land use changes from forest to other land uses, such as agriculture or urban development, in Canada. Deforestation does not include areas of forest harvest.
Estimated area (hectares) of annual deforestation in Canada, by industrial sector, 1990 to 2018
The annual estimated area of deforestation in Canada has declined steadily from about 64,000 hectares (ha) in 1990, to 34,300 ha in 2018. Two spikes in the overall declining trend occurred in 1993 and 2006, when an estimated 86,000 ha and 76,000 ha respectively were deforested due to hydroelectric development. Overall, the conversion of forest to agricultural land uses has declined from about 42,000 ha/year in 1990 to 12,000 ha/year in 2018. The conversion of forest to mining, oil and gas land uses has increased from about 7,200 ha/year in 1990 to 13,400 ha/year in 2018. Forest loss due to the creation of permanent forestry roads has declined from an estimated 3,700 ha/year in 1990 to 1,500 ha/year in 2018. The conversion of forest to built-up land uses has remained stable with losses fluctuating between 6,500 ha/year and 9,300 ha/year between 1990 and 2018.
|Year||Agriculture||Forestry||Mining, oil and gas||Built-up||Hydroelectric||Total|
Why is this indicator important?
- Forest loss affects biodiversity, soil, air and water quality, and wildlife habitat. Forests also store more carbon than other terrestrial ecosystem types and can be managed to mitigate climate change.
What is the outlook?
- Canada’s overall deforestation rate is expected to decline further over time.
- The dominant industrial sectors contributing to deforestation are agriculture; and mining, oil and gas. These conversions from forest are small relative to the size of Canada’s forests.
- Ongoing and planned urban and rural planting initiatives are expected to increase the area afforested in coming years, as the contribution of this activity to restoring ecosystem services, including climate mitigation, is increasingly recognized.
What reporting frameworks does this indicator support?
- Montreal Process: 3.b
- United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: 126.96.36.199
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 National Deforestation Monitoring System: System Description. Figure data provided by the National Deforestation Monitoring System, special tabulation, March 13, 2020.
- Environment and Climate Change Canada. 2020. National Inventory Report 1990–2018: Greenhouse gas sources and sinks in Canada.
- Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National Inventory Report 1990–2018: 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 Bonn, Germany.
- Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service’s National Deforestation Monitoring System and National Forest Carbon Monitoring, Accounting and Reporting System both define forest as a minimum land area of 1 hectare, with tree crown cover of more than 25%, and with trees having the potential to reach a minimum 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.
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