One tree at a time: Canada’s forests

Tamarack forest (Photo by NCC)

Tamarack forest (Photo by NCC)

September 23, 2020 | by Raechel Bonomo

What is the one habitat type that runs through every province and territory, surrounds communities where most Canadians live and covers about one-third of the country? If you guessed forests, you'd be right!

We’re lucky to live in a country dominated by leafy giants. Roughly 3.5 million square kilometres of Canada is covered in forest. If we include smaller trees found along the northern border of the boreal forest to the treeline (referred to as Taiga) near the top of the territories, about half of Canada is forest. Canadians steward a whopping 25 per cent of the planet’s most intact and pristine forests.

Infographic by NCC

Forest stats at a glance up to 2018 (Click on the image to enlarge)

Canada’s forests are special places of irreplaceable beauty and significant biodiversity. They are an important part of every Canadian’s life. Forests purify water, regulate and cool climate, absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide, produce oxygen and provide habitat and shelter for countless species. In fact, more than half of Canada is forested, and we have a responsibility to protect our country's forests.

Since 1962, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has helped directly protect over one million acres (over 406,739 hectares) of forested habitat across Canada. There are eight different forest types across Canada. That's larger than the combined areas of Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver. NCC works in each of these, and each has its own unique characteristics and needs:

(Click on image to enlarge)

Canada's forest regions (Click on the image to enlarge)

Acadian forest

This forest region boasts a rich diversity of more than 60 tree species, including yellow birch, red spruce, American beech and sugar maple.

Boreal forest

Close to 75 per cent of the country’s forests are found in the boreal zone. In fact, Canada’s boreal forests are some of the largest and most intact forests left on Earth.

Carolinian forest

At just one per cent of Canada’s landmass, Ontario’s Carolinian forests support almost 25 per cent of our country’s species at risk, including Acadian flycatcher and cucumber tree.

Coastal forest

Found along Canada’s West Coast, coastal temperate forests occupy less than one-fifth of one per cent of the Earth’s surface.

Columbia forest

This forest region occurs at lower elevations along river valleys and is interspersed with subalpine forests.

Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest

A mix of coniferous and deciduous trees, including white pine, sugar maple, yellow birch and eastern hemlock, can be found in this region.

Montane forest

This forest region of central British Columbia and western Alberta is one of the warmest and driest ecoregions in Canada.

Subalpine forest

Avalanches play an important role in this forest’s diversity and disturbance.

Canada's forest facts

Here are some facts about forests that can be found on properties owned and managed by NCC across Canada:

NCC’s largest protected forest:

Darkwoods, British Columbia. This 136,000-acre (55,000-hectare) privately owned conservation area is largely covered in globally rare inland temperate rainforest. 

NCC’s most northern property with forest:

Harvie, D., Alberta (near Fort McMurray)

NCC’s most southern property with forest:

Stone Road Alvar, Ontario

NCC’s most eastern property with forest:

Maddox Cove Nature Reserve, Newfoundland and Labrador

NCC’s most western property with forest:

Kumdis River Conservation Area, British Columbia (on Haida Gwaii)

Most globally endangered forest species on NCC property:

Boreal felt lichen (International Union for Conservation of Nature critically endangered), found on NCC properties in Atlantic Canada

Raechel Bonomo (Photo by Chase Wastesicoot)

About the Author

Raechel Bonomo is the manager, internal communications at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Read more about Raechel Bonomo.

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