Language selection


Indicator: Forest area within protected areas in Canada

The forest area within protected areas has increased over the past two decades with the establishment of new parks and protected areas.

  • Forest area within protected areas has more than doubled from 13.5 million hectares (ha) in 1990 to 29.5 million ha in 2016 through the creation of new protected areas.
  • Forests within protected areas are dynamic, living ecosystems that are made up of young to old growth stands. Forest structure and species composition go through natural changes, such as those that occur following natural disturbances such as fire.
  • Of Canada’s forest area, 8.5% occurs within protected areas.
  • This is a new indicator for The State of Canada’s Forests Annual Report.
  • Protected areas play a critical role in Canada’s efforts to conserve nature.
  • The forest area within protected areas provides an indication of long-term planning to conserve these important ecosystems.
  • The establishment of protected areas goes hand in hand with sustainable forest management in the surrounding landscape.

Forest area within protected areas (thousands of hectares) in Canada

Table showing in thousands of hectares the forest area within protected areas in Canada for the years 1990, 2000, 2010, 2015 and 2016.
Year 1990 2000 2010 2015 2016
Forest area 13,546 18,174 28,206 29,507 29,507

Why is this indicator important?

  • Forests provide habitat for the majority of Canada’s terrestrial plant and animal species. Many forest species do well in a landscape where sustainable timber harvesting occurs while others require habitat that has not been affected by human activities (e.g. timber harvesting, road building). The establishment of protected areas and connectivity between them is therefore an essential part of land management planning.
  • Canada committed to conserve 17% of its terrestrial areas and inland water by 2020 – forest areas within protected areas make up a part of this conservation landscape. As we achieve this goal, it is important to track which terrestrial ecosystems are being protected to ensure all ecosystems are adequately represented.

What is the outlook?

  • The forest area within protected areas will increase as new protected areas are established. In 2018, the government of Canada announced $1.3-billion to establish and enhance protected areas in Canada. Many of these new protected areas will occur in Canada’s forests. As part of this effort, the registry of protected areas will be enhanced to recognize all areas with conservation measures that maintain native plants and animals. Forest inventory data will be used to characterize the forests in the new protected and conserved areas that are established.

What reporting frameworks does this indicator support?

  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG):
Sources and information
  • Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System.
    • The Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS) was used to identify protected areas in 1990, 2000 and 2010. GIS datasets that have protection status in CARTS were used. Because no single CARTS dataset provides comprehensive data, several CARTS versions were combined along with data from Quebec to provide as complete a dataset as possible. These data included the establishment date of protected areas and, for expanded protected areas, the expansion date and original boundaries prior to expansion. All International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) category Ia, Ib, II, III and IV protected areas were included.
    • Protected areas were identified in 2016 by using GIS data collected by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. The GIS data had been collected for a national project that mapped forest management. The information included data from CARTS and from provinces and territories on protected area boundaries and categorization.
  • Government of Canada. Conservation 2020.
  • National Forest Inventory.
    • NFI baseline photo plot data collected from 2000 to 2006 were used to estimate the forest area within protected areas, assuming no change in forest area between 1990 and 2016. The forest area is generally stable in Canada and protected areas are typically less subject to land-use change than non-protected areas.
    • The forest area is not the same as the area of tree cover. Some treed areas, such as treed urban and agricultural land areas, are not classified as forest. Some non-treed areas, such as recently harvested areas that will be replanted, are classified as forest. The area of tree cover is routinely mapped using satellite data, but land use is also taken into account when assessing the area of forest.


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

Report a problem on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: