Canada's large intact forest landscapes 2003
The first analysis of its kind performed in Canada combining satellite imagery, GIS and ground-truthing to create an electronic atlas that uses ESRI software in an easy-to-use interface.
Canada's forests provide critically important benefits to the nation - ranging from their economic contributions via the forest products industry to recreational opportunities to life-sustaining ecosystem services, such as soil erosion control and watershed protection. The vast extent of Canadian forests represents one tenth of the world's forested area, one quarter of the world's temperate rainforests, and more than one third of the world's boreal (i.e., northern, conifer-dominated) forests.
Despite the importance and diversity of benefits derived from Canada's forests, until very recently Canadians had little access to information about forests other than timber production statistics. This is now beginning to change, with various national and provincial government agencies and other groups documenting and reporting on a wider range of forest values.
This report presents the results of a multiyear project to map Canada's large, intact forest landscapes and analyze their distribution and level of protection. Intact forest landscapes contain no visible signs of large-scale human activities such as agriculture, logging, mining, roads, pipelines, or powerlines.
Intact forest landscapes are becoming increasingly rare at the global level, due in large part to their vulnerability to the effects of large-scale human interventions - effects that are not easily or quickly reversed. The remaining global tracts of intact forest landscapes have intrinsic value as part of the Earth's natural endowment. They are also growing in importance as benchmarks or reference points for understanding managed forest landscapes and designing management schemes that preserve or restore significant aspects of the natural forest landscape. Indeed, intact forest landscapes are areas of opportunity and responsibility, where all land use options - from development to conservation - are still open. They are areas in which the best available knowledge and technology can be applied to inform effective and responsible decision-making.
This project to map Canada's intact forest landscapes aims to increase knowledge about their extent and location, and to enable better decision-making by providing data in accessible forms for use by government, industry, and the public. It is the result of a unique collaboration among members of the international Global Forest Watch network and was carried out by Global Forest Watch Canada, partner organizations of Global Forest Watch Russia, and the World Resources Institute. The project builds on and extends previous work assessing forest intactness in Canada and is part of a larger effort by the Global Forest Watch network to map intact forest landscapes in important forest countries around the world. The methodology was initially developed by Global Forest Watch to map Russia's intact forest landscapes, and analysts from Global Forest Watch Russia have been key partners in this Canadian study.
Global Forest Watch is committed to providing the best possible information for decisions on forest land use. Thus, we plan to work to refine and expand this analysis to include more detailed data, map smaller (between 5,000 and 50,000 hectares) undisturbed areas of forest landscape, analyze the location of social, economic, and conservation values in the forest landscape, and conduct studies tracking past and future forest change. We encourage the Canadian government, industry, and public to join us in these efforts.