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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

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Graph summary

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.

Graph data
Table showing the estimated area of annual deforestation in Canada, by industrial sector, in hectares per year, from 1990 to 2018.
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 14,693 9,053 4,035 49,216
2006 16,841 3,061 17,312 9,054 29,479 75,747
2007 15,701 2,670 17,377 8,617 3,719 48,084
2008 14,561 2,278 16,457 8,158 6,810 48,264
2009 13,420 1,886 13,973 7,985 5,072 42,336
2010 12,280 1,494 14,358 7,608 5,112 40,852
2011 12,280 1,494 15,443 7,268 2,773 39,258
2012 12,280 1,494 13,981 6,935 3,095 37,785
2013 12,280 1,494 14,136 7,047 9,224 44,182
2014 12,280 1,494 13,117 6,827 10,777 44,494
2015 12,280 1,494 13,169 6,723 5,935 39,601
2016 12,280 1,494 13,485 6,590 4,602 38,450
2017 12,280 1,494 13,411 6,519 2,010 35,713
2018 12,280 1,494 13,398 6,512 573 34,257

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?

Sources and information

 

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

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