Canada’s vast and highly biodiverse forest system is shrinking at an alarming rate, with some forest areas disappearing from the landscape and others disappearing entirely, according to a new report from WWF Canada.
“Canada’s forests are one of the few globally that provide essential wildlife habitat and protection for communities,” WWF Canada senior advisor for land and environment, Mark Hirsch, said in a statement.
“The report finds that large tracts of forest have already been lost, while others have already shrunk significantly.”
According to the WWF report, the forest loss has been driven by the loss of a quarter of the Canada’s boreal forest.
“It’s a loss of habitat that’s happening in such a rapid and significant way that it is causing the loss and fragmentation of many habitats,” Hirsch said.
The report, which was released on Monday, is based on data collected between 2004 and 2015.
The first decade of the 20th century saw a massive reduction in the country’s boreals.
By 2000, Canada’s forest cover had shrunk by more than 60 per cent.
By 2012, the country had already lost an additional 50 per cent of its forest.
WWF Canada said that as of last year, only one-third of Canada’s land area was under the jurisdiction of the province of Quebec.
“With forest loss across Canada and the loss to agriculture and forestry, our forests have become one of our most critical areas,” Hisch said.
“If we do not manage this area effectively, we could see the forest system collapse completely.”
The report found that the largest declines were seen in the forests of northern Quebec and the Canadian Rockies, which are home to about 70 per cent and 70 per percent of Canada and U.S. boreal forests respectively, and the southern forests of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
It also found that Canada’s southern forests are experiencing a significant decline.
“We’re seeing the most significant loss of forest in the boreal regions,” said Hirsch.
“And the worst loss is in the southern areas, where you have the greatest loss of land.”
WWF Canada has also identified the importance of controlling fires, particularly in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
“In the southern mountains, we’ve identified significant reductions in forest cover,” said Dr. John Dickson, a forest ecologist with WWF Canada, in a press release.
“These fires are now a major driver of wildfires in Canada and have a significant impact on climate change and biodiversity.”
Hirsch told CBC News that the report is just one way to track forest loss in Canada.
The group has published a report on forest loss on the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which also looks at changes in the land use patterns and biodiversity of the land.
“What we’re finding is the loss is happening faster than we could anticipate and it’s happening across the country,” Hodge said.