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Forest classification

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Canada’s forests are classified in four main ways: ecozone, forest region, forest composition, and plant hardiness zone.

Together these classifications give forest managers a science-based foundation for making decisions at the national, provincial/territorial and regional levels.

Ecozones are the broadest classification type for forests

  • An ecozone is an area of Earth’s surface representing large, very generalized ecological units. Each ecozone is characterized by a unique interplay of geologic, climatic, vegetative, wildlife and human activity factors.
  • Canada has 20 ecozones: 15 terrestrial and 5 marine. The 15 terrestrial ecozones are further divided into 53 ecoprovinces, and those in turn are subdivided into 194 ecoregions.
  • Ecozones, ecoprovinces and ecoregions are useful units for reporting and planning purposes at, respectively, the national, provincial and regional levels.

Canada’s National Forest Inventory

Detailed information for 12 of Canada’s terrestrial forested ecozones is compiled in the National Forest Inventory, a collaborative effort between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The Arctic ecozones – Arctic Cordillera, Northern Arctic, Southern Arctic – and the James Bay islands in the Hudson Plains ecozone are not inventoried because they are not forested.

The inventory includes data on tree ages, volume of wood, dominant species and land use. This information provides the basis for reporting on the extent, state and sustainable development of Canada’s forests.


Forest regions are geographic areas with similar dominant tree species

  • A forest region is a geographic zone, or belt, whose vegetation cover is characterized by a fairly uniform dominant species and stand type.
  • Forest region classification is based mainly on the nature of the vegetation or forest composition, unlike ecozones, which incorporate a much wider range of environmental variables



Forest regions of Canada
Forest region Location Predominant tree species
Acadian Maritimes red spruce, balsam fir, yellow birch
Boreal northern Canada white spruce, black spruce, balsam fir, jack pine, white birch, trembling aspen, tamarack, willow
Carolinian (Deciduous) southwestern Ontario beech, maple, black walnut, hickory, oak
Coast British Columbia western redcedar, western hemlock, Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir
Columbia British Columbia western redcedar, western hemlock, Douglas-fir
Great Lakes–St Lawrence central Canada red pine, eastern white pine, eastern hemlock, yellow birch, maple, oak
Montane British Columbia and Alberta Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, trembling aspen
Subalpine British Columbia and Alberta Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, lodgepole pine

Forest composition classifies trees by genus

  • Trees of the same genus are closely related and share similar characteristics, such as all varieties of spruce trees.
  • Grouping and mapping tree species by genus in a forest composition map makes it easier to see which types of trees are dominant where across Canada’s forests.
  • Forest composition data is needed for many forest management activities, such as evaluating timber losses from forest fires, and assessing the spread of invasive insects based on the abundance and location of host tree species.

Download the forest composition map or access the map on the National Forestry Inventory website.

Plant hardiness zones indicate where plants are best suited to the climate

Plant hardiness zones map
Plant hardiness zones
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  • Canada’s plant hardiness zones are well known to Canadian gardeners. The map of plant hardiness zones shows where various types of trees, shrubs and flowers are most likely to survive across the country, based on the average climatic conditions of each area.
  • The original hardiness zones were developed in the early 1960s. Since then, Canada’s climate has changed and climate mapping techniques have improved. Scientists with the Canadian Forest Service have updated the plant hardiness zones using more recent data, and incorporating the effect of elevation into the original variables.

The Plant Hardiness of Canada website:

  • provides plant hardiness zone maps and species-specific climate niches
  • allows users to visualize the current and projected climate niches of more than 3,000 individual plant species
  • helps users consider climate change when selecting which species to plant
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