International Day of Forests is on March 21, and this year, the theme is ‘Forest Restoration: a path to recovery and well-being” – a theme which especially rings true this year of all years. With an increased attention on how important trees are to our physical and mental health, the practices of forest bathing and the creation of healing forests or trails are becoming more the norm now than before.
When the pandemic hit last March, many of us have found solace by spending more time in the natural areas, greens spaces and forests that are close by. Studies have shown that more time spent in nature increases an appreciation for it, which in turn fosters a sense of responsibility to conserve and take care of it.
With 347 million hectares of forest, Canada is the third-most forested country in the world, having nine per cent of the world’s forests. We are lucky to have eight forest regions across the country to explore and appreciate:
1. Acadian forest
Spanning the Maritime provinces of PEI, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, this forest region is composed of mixed hardwoods and softwoods boasting a rich diversity of more than 60 tree species, including yellow birch, red spruce, American beech and sugar maple.
Experience the Acadian forest in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
2. Boreal forest
Made up mostly of balsam fir and white birch, with smaller amounts of white spruce and black spruce, the boreal forest is the largest forest region in Canada with close to 75 per cent of the country’s forests found here. In fact, Canada’s boreal forests are some of the largest and most intact forests left on Earth stretching more than
5,000 km from Newfoundland and Labrador in the east to Yukon in the west, and extending south 1,000 km from the edge of the arctic tundra.
Experience the boreal forest in Pukaskwa National Park.
3. Carolinian (Deciduous) forest
Located in southwestern Ontario, the Carolinian forests only make up about one
per cent of Canada’s total land area. Being biologically diverse, they boast the greatest number of flora and fauna species, supporting almost 25 per cent of our country’s species at risk. It is estimated that there are 70 species of trees in these forests alone, some of which include species of beech, maple, black walnut, hickory and oak.
Experience the Carolinian forest in Point Pelee National Park.
4. Coastal forest
Stretching along British Columbia’s coast, these forests are highly productive and contain more living biomass per acre than other ecosystems. With almost half of North America’s coastal rainforest, and close to 25 per cent of the world’s temperate rainforests, found in British Columbia, this coastal rainforest is different from other temperate rainforests because it has more coniferous trees than deciduous trees. The majestic trees of giant proportions include species such as western hemlock, Douglas-fir, western redcedar and Sitka spruce.
Experience the coastal forest in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
5. Columbia forest
Occurring in the wet belt of southern eastern BC between the central plateau and the Rocky Mountains, this forest region occurs at lower elevations along river valleys. Interspersed with subalpine forests, it contains a mix of western redcedar, western hemlock and Douglas-fir.
Experience the Columbia forest in Mount Revelstoke National Park.
6. Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest
The second largest forest region after the boreal region, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest region, as its name implies, stretches from southeastern Manitoba to Lake Superior and Lake Huron across central Ontario along the St. Lawrence River to the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec. Because the forests lie between the boreal forest and the deciduous zones, they are considered transitional and are made up of a few coniferous species, like eastern hemlock and pine and a few deciduous species, such as yellow birch, maples and oaks.
Experience the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest in Bruce Peninsula National Park.
7. Montane forest
As one of warmest and driest ecoregions in Canada, the montane forest region covers British Columbia’s central plateau, a portion of the Kootenays, and several valleys near the Alberta border. Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine and trembling aspen are common species in this forest where elevation, aspect and fire play an important role in its composition.
Experience the montane forest in Jasper National Park.
8. Subalpine forest
A forest region that curls around mountainsides, Canada’s subalpine forest spans British Columbia and Alberta, stretching across the Rocky Mountains from the coast to the uplands of Alberta. With its cooler climate, shorter growing season and longer winters, and avalanches playing an important role in its diversity, this forest typically consists of Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir and lodgepole pine.
Experience the subalpine forest in Waterton Lakes National Park.
The diversity of our forests give back to us in so many ways, so let’s make sure to keep them there and intact for as long as we can! It is the least we can do.