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Area: 5,421,407 km2
Federal ecozones: Boreal Shield, Boreal Plains, Boreal Cordillera, Taiga Cordillera, Taiga Plains, Taiga Shield, Hudson Plains
Natural cover: 5,314,559 km2
Per cent natural: 98%
Protected area: 451,915 km2
Per cent protected: 8%
Number of NCC projects (all): 237
Number of species of birds: 357
Number of species of trees: 103
Number of species of mammals: 136
Number of species of amphibians: 25
Estimated human population: 2,762,712


Canada’s heartland is the vast swath of boreal forest that extends from Newfoundland and Labrador to the Yukon. This region covers over half of Canada and is very diverse. Northern regions are characterized by taiga, where trees are smaller and interspersed with plains and wetlands. The southern region of the boreal along the edge of the prairies is often referred to as parklands and is dominated by trembling aspen that become increasingly sparse as the forest transitions into grassland.

Boreal Landscape

Conservation Values

The boreal region is composed of over five million square kilometres of forests, woodlands, barrens, wetlands, rivers and lakes, stretching across the country from Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador. Canada’s boreal forest represents 28 per cent of the world’s boreal forests, and includes some of the most intact forested landscapes left on Earth. Although forestry, mining, energy and hydroelectric development have impacted parts of the boreal, most of this forest region remains intact.

The boreal forest has been referred to as North America’s songbird nursery and provides critical breeding habitat for more than 350 species. An estimated five billion birds migrate south from the boreal each fall.


The current extent of industrial activity (e.g. forestry, mining, oil and gas exploration and extraction, and hydroelectricity and infrastructure) in Canada’s boreal is estimated at 730,000 kilometres. Industrial interest in more northerly boreal ecoregions continues to increase, while some southern boreal ecozones have already been heavily impacted. For example, less than 15 per cent of the Boreal Plains ecozone remains intact.

What NCC is doing

NCC has identified priority conservation sites in a number of natural areas, including:

  • Peace River Parkland
  • Upper North Saskatchewan River Basin
  • West Parklands
  • Riding Mountain Aspen Parkland
  • Whitemouth River Watershed
  • Interlake Plain

In the southern part of the boreal, NCC is working to secure key areas and habitats for rare species. In the north, NCC is working with partners to prepare Nature Atlases that will assemble and share information on biodiversity and land use, and help to inform decisions on resource and protected areas planning. NCC completed the Labrador Nature Atlas in 2014, and is currently working on other atlases on northern Quebec and the Boreal Plains.

Did you know?

  • Canada’s boreal region is larger than the combined land mass of India and Argentina.
  • It is estimated that a minimum of 208 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in the boreal’s soils and plants. It is therefore the planet’s most significant storehouse of terrestrial carbon, helping to regulate the global climate.
  • Between 1 and 3 billion nesting birds of more than 350 species, including an estimated 26 million waterfowl and 7 million shorebirds, also rely on boreal ecosystems for their survival.
  • Boreal ecosystems provide more than $700 billion in ecosystem services each year, such as air and water filtration, tourism and recreation, carbon storage and sequestration, among others. We, as Canadians, depend upon the services that the boreal provides.
  • Canada’s boreal region also houses the largest area of surface fresh water on Earth, some of the world’s most extensive wetlands, millions of pristine lakes and many of the world’s last free-flowing rivers that support remaining wild runs of migrating fish.

Photo Credits (Top to bottom): All images iStock; iStock; Alf Kelly; iStock.

Destinations in this Landscape