Canada’s forests cover 347 million hectares of land and make up nearly nine per cent of the world’s total forest area. Canada is the third-most forested country in the world by area. With nearly 10 hectares/person, people living in Canada enjoy more forest area per person than most other countries in the world, over 17 times the world average. Nearly 30 million hectares (or about nine per cent) of Canada’s forests are in legally established protected areas.
Ninety-two per cent of Canada’s forests are publicly-owned — 90 per cent by the governments of the provinces and territories and two per cent by the federal government. The remainder is held by some 450,000 private landowners. In some parts of the country an increasing amount of forest is coming under Indigenous jurisdiction (two per cent) as land claims are settled.
The map below shows forest tenure type of Canada’s forest area by jurisdiction.
Approximately 80 per cent of Canada’s forested land is in the immense boreal forest region, swinging in an arc south from the Mackenzie River Delta and Alaskan border to northeast British Columbia, across northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, through Manitoba, Ontario and Québec, terminating in northern Newfoundland on the shores of the Labrador Sea. The northern boreal region consists of open forest with trees growing farther apart and smaller in size as the forest stretches towards the tundra, where only dwarf specimens persist.
The southern boreal region includes a denser, closed forest which, at its southwest boundary in the Prairie provinces, gives way to a transitional zone dominated by poplar. Known as the aspen grove, this part of the forest thins out into open, almost treeless prairie. White and black spruce are the principal species of the predominantly coniferous boreal forest, but other conifers (e.g., balsam fir, jack pine and tamarack) also have a wide distribution. There is a mixture of broad-leaved trees in the region, including white birch, balsam poplar and the wide-ranging trembling aspen.
Great Lakes-St Lawrence
The Great Lakes-St Lawrence is Canada’s second-largest forest region. Except for a 322 km gap where the boreal region touches the north shore of Lake Superior, this forest stretches from southeastern Manitoba to the Gaspé Peninsula. It is bordered to the south by the deciduous forest region and is a transitional forest between the coniferous and broad-leaved regions. Species include eastern white pine, red pine, eastern hemlock, and yellow birch. Sugar and red maples, beech, red oak, basswood, and white elm are also found, as are many boreal species.
Closely related to the Great Lakes-St Lawrence Forest Region, this region covers Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and a large portion of New Brunswick. Red spruce, balsam fir, yellow birch and sugar maple are commonly found in this region along with black spruce, white and grey birch, red oak, white elm, black ash, beech, red maple, trembling aspen and balsam poplar.
As Canada’s smallest forest region, this area borders the southeast shore of Lake Huron and the northern shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario. Despite its small size, this region contains the largest number of native tree species of any region. Along with the broad-leaved trees common to the Great Lakes-St Lawrence Forest Region are found the cucumber tree, tulip tree, black gum, blue ash, sassafras, walnut and others which are at the northern limits of their range. Conifers occur only as a scattering of eastern white pine, tamarack, eastern red cedar and eastern hemlock.
This region covers the lower seaward slopes of British Columbia’s Coast Mountains and extends to the coastal islands. It is home to almost exclusively coniferous trees including such species as western hemlock, Douglas-fir, western red cedar, and Sitka spruce, all renowned for their value as timber-producing trees. The region also has broad-leaved trees — black cottonwood, red alder and big-leaf maple.
Composed of coniferous forests, this region is situated on the mountain uplands of British Columbia and western Alberta. This region includes such trees as the Engelmann spruce, alpine fir and lodgepole pine — occasional species include western larch, white bark pine and limber pine, together with yellow cypress and mountain hemlock on the more westerly ranges. The subalpine region makes an impressive contribution to the scenic splendour of the Canadian Cordillera and offers unique features of watershed protection and stream control in high-mountain source areas. The trees at lower elevations are harvested for timber.
This region includes British Columbia’s central plateau and several valley pockets adjacent to the Alberta boundary, areas which share a prevailing dry climate. Trees commonly found in the region are the blue Douglas-fir — a smaller variety of the coast-region type — lodgepole pine and trembling aspen, and white spruce is found in cooler, shaded valley locations. Ponderosa pine can be found in the region’s southern reaches while to the north are species such as Engelmann spruce, alpine fir and western white birch.
Situated between the Rocky Mountains and British Columbia’s central plateau, and running alongside river valleys and lakes, the coniferous Columbia Forest Region resembles the coast region in its makeup, albeit with fewer species. Throughout the region are western red cedar and western hemlock intermingled with blue Douglas-fir while in southern parts western white pine, western larch, grand fir and western yew are found. Engelmann spruce is found in the upper Fraser Valley and occasionally at higher elevations in the region.