Canada covers an area of almost 10 million km[2 ]and has one of the lowest population densities in the world. Its forests cover almost half of the Canadian landscape, stretching in a continuous band from the Yukon and Rocky Mountains eastward to the Atlantic Ocean, for a distance of 417 million hectares. Canada’s forests make up a third of the world’s boreal forest, a fifth of the world’s temperate rainforest, and a tenth of the total global forest cover.
Canada has several large and distinct forest zones, which blend into a number of transitional zones. The two main types of forest in Canada are the boreal forest and the temperate rainforest. The Canadian boreal or taiga forest is part of a belt of uninterrupted forest encircling the Northern hemisphere and making up a third of the world's total forest area. Canada has the second largest part of the boreal forest - it covers 45% of the Canadian land mass. Russia contains the largest part and Europe the smallest. The severe winter and short growing season limit the number of tree species in this area. Among them the white and black spruce and white birch are common, the balsam (fir) and tamarack (larch) also have wide distributions. The boreal forest is an important source of pulpwood and also produces considerable lumber, but much of the northern area is too inaccessible for commercial lumbering, and therefore protected by its isolation.
The temperate rainforest is located on the central coast of British Columbia and is adapted to the steep cliffs and rugged coastlines of this area. This forest is much smaller and is vastly different from the boreal forest, with a much higher rainfall and fewer fires occurring. As a result of this, trees in the temperate rainforest are often much older then those found in the boreal forest. Large variations occur in the plants and animals that are found in the temperate rainforest. The valley bottoms support towering spruce and cedar, the steep hill slopes are home to ancient hemlock and balsam, and sphagnum moss grows knee deep in the low-lying coastal bog forests.
The forests of Canada as a whole are home to roughly two-thirds of the 140,000 species of plants, animals and micro-organisms estimated to occur in Canada. The forest ecosystems provide habitat for wildlife, replenish the earth's atmosphere with fresh air by producing oxygen and storing carbon, help filter pollution out of the water, protect against flooding, mudslides and erosion, and provide timber, medicines, food, and jobs for people.
Canada is in the unique position of having most of its forests under public ownership. Only 6% are privately owned. Despite the majority of forests being owned publicly, less than 8% of Canada’s forests are legally protected from large-scale industrial development.
Canada maintains its lead as the world’s largest timber exporter through the logging of old-growth and primary forests, which account for 90% of the harvest. Forests play an important role in the economics and social needs of Canadians.
Forests are a dominant feature of Canada's economy, culture, traditions and history and are an integral part of the natural environment and life support systems. Canada's forests offer several benefits including aesthetic, economic, environmental, historical and recreational.
Two-thirds of Canada’s terrestrial species are found in the forests or are dependent on forest habitat. As part of the forest ecosystem they have a significant environmental benefit.
Forests produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is one of the gases that contribute to global warming.
Forests also purify water, moderate climate, stabilize soil, and regulate water flow.
Canada benefits financially from the forest in many ways. Hundreds of rural communities are heavily reliant on forestry sector industries. The forests support industries providing jobs and billions of dollars in sales, including tourism, recreation, wild foods, Christmas trees and maple products.
Clearly, Canadians depend on their forests for a wide range of services, products, and values. The key to sustaining these multiple uses and values and hence fulfilling the demands of present and future generations of Canadians is the maintenance and correct management of forest ecosystems.
What you can do
Individual actions may seem small and insignificant, but collectively they can change the world. Here are some simple ways you can help save Canada’s forests:Write a letter or email to the editor of your local or national newspaper. Urge him or her to publish your concerns about local logging, conservation and forest management issues. Try to write letters in response to recent news articles, such as articles on logging old growth forests. Phone a radio call-in show and express your concerns about the logging of old-growth forests in Canada. If a decision on an important issue is about to be made, pick up the phone and call the Minister’s office or your representative. You may not get to speak to them, but you can leave a message. Visit woodland and forests regularly and spend time there so you may learn to appreciate them. Study ecology and the role trees have in natural systems.
Use our lobbying service to write a letter or email your Federal or State government and ask them to do more to protect old growth forests. Suggest specific actions you would like to see your representative take, or ask them to explain their position on an issue.
Support organizations that are working to protect boreal forests and temperate rainforests, nationally and locally. Join forest action groups and participate in campaigns to save the forests of Canada.
As a consumer of forest products, you can buy from companies that support forest conservation measures by looking for goods that carry credible environmental certification, such as Forest Stewardship Council certified wood products. Buy natural forest products from companies that operate by fair trade practices and are environmentally responsible.
Help insure that your home, workplace or organizations you are involved with adopt recycling and purchasing policies that support forest conservation.