The deforestation of Canada

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The loss of forests, deforestation is progressing at a fast pace in the whole world. This issue of deforestation gets much attention in tropical regions where rainforests are transformed into agricultural lands. The large swaths of boreal forests are cut every year in colder climates. Canada has long enjoyed an excellent standing in terms of environmental stewardship. Canada’s reputation is being seriously challenged as the government is promoting aggressive policies on dropping climate change commitments, fossil fuel exploitation, and muzzling federal scientists. What does the recent record of deforestation in Canada look like?

An important role in the global forest picture

Canada’s use of its forest is significant because of the global importance of its wooded lands as 10% of the world’s forests are located there. Most of this percentage is boreal forest, defined by stands of coniferous trees in subarctic regions. The boreal forests are far from roads and this isolation makes Canada the steward of much of the remaining “pristine forests” not fragmented by human activity.

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Net losses due to deforestation

Since 1975, around 3.3 million hectares of Canadian forests were transformed into non-forest uses, representing only 1% of the total forested areas. These new uses are mining of oil and gas, agriculture, and also urban development. Such changes in land use can truly be considered deforestation, as they result in permanent loss of forest cover.

Does Cut Forests Mean Lost Forest?

A much greater amount of forest is cut every year as part of the forest products industry. These forest cuts amount to around a half-million hectares a year. The main products issued from Canada’s boreal forest are softwood lumber, plywood, and paper. Canada’s forestry activities do not transform forests into pastures like in the Amazon Basin. Instead, forestry activities are performed as a part of management plans prescribing practices to encourage the natural regeneration of new seedling trees. Either way, the cutover areas will return to forest cover with only a temporary loss of habitat and carbon-storing capabilities.

Primary forests – A major concern

The fact that most forests cut in Canada manage to grow back doesn’t take us away from the fact that primary forest also continues to be cut-down at an alarming rate. Between 2000 and 2014, Canada was responsible for the greatest total loss (acreage-wise) of primary forest in the whole world.