Canada’s forests are some of the most biodiverse locations on Earth, but human activity threatens these vital ecosystems and puts wildlife habitats at risk.
What’s more, deforestation drives dangerous carbon emissions, exacerbating the worldwide climate crisis. With Canada’s climate warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, we need to do everything possible to mitigate climate change. That includes preserving our forests.
This article will discuss why you should be aware of deforestation and how you can help stop this devastating practice before it’s too late.
What we’ll be discussing:
Deforestation is the intentional destruction of forested land for alternative purposes. It can include clearing land for agriculture and farming, urban development, and industrial things like drilling, mining or natural resource exploration. A common example is when a livestock corporation clears forested land for cattle grazing (roaming and eating food). Since the cattle now use this land, the trees will never come back.
Canada’s total forest area is approximately 347.7 million hectares. In the last 40 years, around 3.3 million hectares of forests have been converted to other uses such as livestock production, urbanization and paper product production. For reference, a hectare is about the size of two and a half football fields.
Deforestation does not occur from insect infestations or fires. In those cases, the forests will grow back after these disasters, even if the process is slow.
Several factors cause deforestation in Canada, including agriculture and mineral extraction.
Globally, industrial agriculture contributes significantly to the loss of forested land. In fact, according to a study published in the journal Science, about 5 million hectares are destroyed every year by agricultural activities. That’s roughly the size of Costa Rica.
While most of the world’s agricultural-related deforestation occurs in South America and Southeast Asia, Canada is not immune to its effects. Between 1990 to 2015, StatCan reports that the transformation of forest land for agricultural purposes (livestock and crops) accounted for 42 percent of deforestation. Once those trees are gone, they won’t come back since the land is being permanently used for farming.
While extracting natural resources like oil, gas, and mineral are vital to the Canadian economy, it impacts our intact forests. Extractions require roads, pipelines, seismic lines, and open pits – all of which cause deforestation.
According to StatCan, between 1990 to 2015, 24 percent of deforestation came from natural resource development. This includes mining, oil, and gas. While oil sands have gotten a lot of attention as a cause of environmental destruction, this activity accounts for a small portion of deforestation. Mineable oil sands in Canada occupy only 480,000 hectares while the country has 348 million hectares of boreal forests.
Whether we realize it or not. Deforestation affects us all. Forests are extremely important to the health of our country and our planet. And if we continue to cut them down on a mass scale we will experience severe consequences.
Forests play a vital role in regulating carbon levels. In fact, they absorb about one-third of carbon emissions created by burning fossil fuels each year. Without forests to absorb and store carbon, Canada will continue to experience high carbon footprints. A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases generated by human actions.
As of 2019, Canadians produce an equivalent of 14.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Eating meat, driving vehicles that run on fossil fuel, air travel, and large houses that consume a lot of energy contribute to Canada’s large carbon footprint. And it’s higher than other industrialized nations, such as the UK at 8.5 tonnes per person and China at 5 tonnes per person.
Canada’s boreal forests store twice as much carbon as tropical forests, making these unique ecosystems extremely important in regulating the global carbon footprint. In fact, Canada’s forests store 27 years’ worth of the world’s carbon emissions from fossil fuel consumption. This is why deforestation is extremely dangerous. When trees are destroyed they emit carbon and can no longer absorb greenhouse gases.
Logging scars refer to the deforestation caused by logging activities. This includes temporary roads and worksites. They not only remove trees, but the packed ground makes it difficult for seedlings to take root in the future.
These treeless patches often go overlooked when accounting for deforestation. But consider how much land is impacted. In Ontario alone, logging roads and the adjacent land make up 21,700 hectares of deforested land. By 2030, logging scars will result in our forests not being able to absorb 41 megatonnes of carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. That’s equivalent to a year’s worth of passenger vehicle emissions in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined 100 other nations at the COP26 climate summit and promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. This commitment is backed by private companies in the forestry sector. But we need to take action too and play a role in preserving our forests and wildlife. Our planet depends on it.
For starters, you can make forest-friendly decisions about your consumption. Try purchasing less meat, which decreases the demand for livestock. Pledge to buy products from companies committed to reducing deforestation. Reduce the amount of paper products you use.
You can also support organizations that work to combat the effects of deforestation. Unite for Change’s Protect the Environment Fund supports 530 organizations that are committed to saving our natural habitats. Make a donation today. Support programs that invest in the health, diversity, and sustainability of our environment through initiatives aimed at preserving and conserving our parks and forests. This includes natural parks, forest conservancies, wildlife societies, and much more.