What Are Old Growth Forests, And Where Are They Found In Canada

Old-growth forests are a special type of biologically diverse ecosystem found in specific parts of the world. Rich in biodiversity, old-growth forests provide vital habitats for animals and plants that cannot survive anywhere else on Earth. Canada is home to some of the few remaining stands of such forests, including mixed-wood boreal forests, coastal temperate rainforests and mid-boreal transitional forests — all locations containing irreplaceable pieces of our global ecology yet threatened by human activities like logging, mining and wildfires. Read on to explore what an old-growth forest is, its importance in Canada's ecosystems and where you can go to discover them in person.

What Are Old-Growth Forests, And What Makes Them Unique?

Old-growth forests are a rare and especially valuable resource, providing us with invaluable lessons about the resilience of nature. They typically feature two hundred or more years old trees and provide important habitat for numerous species of plants, fungi, insects and larger animals. While many forests live through stages of death and rebirth, old-growth forests may never succumb to such cycles due to their stable environmental conditions. These lush ecosystems act as carbon sinks, storing far more carbon dioxide than younger forests - making them incredibly important in today's world. By protecting older forests, we can take significant steps toward fighting climate change while preserving a natural way of life that has been around since the dawn of time.

How Are They Managed In Canada, And What Protections Do They Have?

Old-growth forests are managed differently in Canada than in other countries. In Canada, old-growth forests are considered ecologically important, and policies focus on protecting them so that they remain as healthy and viable ecosystems. This approach is based on conservation, biodiversity, and sustainability principles, with specific objectives that prioritize preserving old-growth forests, such as managing human activities to not disrupt old-growth ecosystems or restrict the natural regeneration of old-growth species. Rights-of-way may exist in old-growth areas to provide access roads, power lines, and pipelines. However, these only occur if it is determined that the impacts will be minimal or non-existent to the old-growth ecosystem. The Canada National Parks Act protects old-growth forests from logging and other activities that could damage their habitats and sustainability. Laws concerning old growth management also call for regular assessment to limit how much old growth may be harvested at any time. Ultimately, old-growth forests in Canada remain mostly intact due to research and preservation efforts, including set management goals ensuring these unique ecological habitats are balanced.

Which Provinces Have The Most Old-Growth Forest Land, And Which Ones Are Losing The Most Acreage Each Year?

Old-growth forests provide irreplaceable benefits to the environment, yet their acreage has rapidly declined in recent years. British Columbia houses the most old-growth forest in Canada, with a total of 9.5 million hectares, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada. Old-growth forests still exist in other pockets throughout the country—Ontario holds around 1 million hectares, and Quebec just over 500 thousand hectares. When examining annual change, British Columbia loses the most old-growth forest acreage due to resource exploitation, with an estimated 200,000 hectares falling victim to logging operations yearly. Although old-growth forests survive in various provinces across the country, protecting them is becoming increasingly important as they are at risk of being destroyed before we have a chance to fully understand their value.

What Industries And Activities Pose The Biggest Threat To Canada's Old-Growth Forests?

Canada's old-growth forests are under increasing pressure from logging and resource extraction industries, as well as other man-made activities such as urban expansion, recreational developments and climate change. In particular, logging for timber and pulp production poses a serious risk to old-growth forests due to clearcutting practices which remove old-growth habitats completely. Moreover, projects like the development of roads and power lines can further fragment old-growth forest ecosystems and hamper the essential ecological services they provide. As such, acting quickly to protect old-growth forests is imperative before they are gone forever.

What Is Being Done To Protect These Vital Ecosystems From Deforestation And Development Pressures?

Old-growth forests are essential to sustaining life on the planet. Yet, they remain at risk from the pressures of deforestation and development. Governments, communities and conservation organizations must act quickly to protect old-growth forests before they are gone forever. Governments have implemented various measures to help ensure old-growth forests remain intact, including creating protected areas and strengthening regulations around land use. They also encourage sustainable practices such as agroforestry and selective logging that minimize disturbance while providing much-needed economic opportunities. Communities can participate in conservation efforts through education and adopting cultural norms that recognize the importance of old-growth forest preservation. Conservation organizations have taken a leading role in advocating for old-growth protection, raising awareness of their fragility, working with local communities to create sustainable models, and providing funds for research, monitoring projects and management plans. Ultimately, only through concerted action by all levels of society will old-growth ecosystems be able to withstand development pressures into the future.


Canada is taking proactive steps to protect its vital ecosystems from deforestation and development pressures. The Canada Nature Fund, established in 2019, provides $1.3 billion over five years to support the conservation and restoration of Canada's natural habitat and species. It also incentivizes nurturing partnerships with Indigenous communities so they can develop stewardship ideas on how to manage their land sustainably. Canada has also committed an additional $100 million from 2020-2025 for the Canada Nature Partnership, which assists Indigenous peoples in developing strategies for co-developing and co-governing traditional territories. These strategies include private land-based conservation approaches such as conservation agreements, community investments, land acquisition, habitat recovery activities, and improved communications with other levels of government. Canada is using various innovative measures to balance the needs of conserving these ecosystems while providing economic opportunities for communities through responsible resource management policies.

What Can People Do To Help Protect These Valuable Ecosystems?

Old-growth forests are a precious natural resource, invaluable to the environment and local economies. Protecting these irreplaceable ecosystems is a challenge that requires collective action and responsibility. People can take several steps to safeguard old-growth forests and their associated habitats. Firstly, learning about their importance can help us become more conscious consumers, allowing us to make decisions that support natural forestry efforts rather than contribute to logging old-growth trees. Additionally, boycotting companies engaged in destructive logging practices is an effective way of sending a message and helping shift old-growth forest preservation into a priority for governing bodies. People could also join local organizations or campaigns dedicated to protecting old-growth forests - becoming vocal activists who influence policy change in their local communities. Together we can work towards protecting these vital old-growth forests for generations.

How Does Climate Change Impact Old-Growth Forests, And What Could The Future Hold For Them?

Old-growth forests play an integral role in providing shelter for wildlife and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, these remarkable forest ecosystems face a new threat from climate change. Rising temperatures and increasingly frequent droughts due to climate change are decreasing old-growth forests' moisture levels and causing them to become more prone to pest infestations and wildfires. If left unaddressed, old-growth forests could begin to disappear rapidly within our lifetime as ongoing climate change reduces their ability to survive. To avoid this devastating outcome, we must prioritize protecting old-growth forests by implementing measures that mitigate the effects of climate change. We need proactive forestry management practices and strong government policy initiatives so that old-growth forests can continue providing benefits to the environment and the communities they inhabit for generations to come.

Final Thoughts

Old-growth forests are a priceless treasure, essential to our environment and the communities that depend on them. We must act swiftly and decisively to protect these ecosystems from climate change and other threats. This can be done through learning about their importance, boycotting companies engaged in destructive logging practices, joining local organizations for old-growth forest protection, and becoming vocal activists who influence policy change in their local communities - all of which will help us safeguard these irreplaceable resources for future generations. With collective action and responsibility, it is time to take meaningful steps toward preserving old-growth forests so they may continue providing invaluable benefits for years.