Canada is the second-largest country on earth, covering almost 10 million square kilometres, which is home to tens of thousands of species of plants and animals. More than 37 million people depend on the land and the natural resources Canada provides. This includes 1.6 million Indigenous Peoples who have lived here for thousands of years and maintain strong relationships and connections to the land.
The Diversity and Importance of Canada’s Land
Canada is incredibly diverse with unique topography and geology; ranging from rugged alpine peaks, forests, vast fields of open prairie to arctic tundra. Canada’s seven physiographic regions are composed of the Appalachian Uplands, Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Lowlands, the Canadian Shield, Hudson Bay Lowlands, Arctic Lands, the Interior Plains, and the Cordillera in the West. The diversity of the Canadian landscape has an abundance of natural features and resources, including:
- Canada holds nearly a quarter of the world’s wetlands.
- Permafrost underlies approximately 40% of the Canadian landscape.
- Canada has 9% of the world’s forests with over 347 million hectares.
- Over 21,000 mountains dot Canada’s landscape, with Mount Logan in the Yukon being the highest peak at 19,551 feet high.
Did You Know?
Peatlands are a type of wetland, which are dominant features of the Canadian landscape, covering approximately 13% of the land area. Peatlands can retain, purify and deliver fresh water, store carbon, and absorb pollutants.
Land Cover Change: 2010-2015
The interactive map below shows land cover data available through the Open Science and Data Platform. The interactive slider tool available on the map, allows you to view two datasets provided by Natural Resources Canada, showing land cover across Canada for the years 2010 and 2015. The map is focussed on the region around Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, where significant wildland fires occurred between 2012-2015 resulting in approximately 4,500 square kilometres burned.
The change in land cover is evident when looking at the top middle part of the map, which shows how the green forested areas in 2010 changed to grass and shrublands (large circular yellow areas) following the extensive wildland fires that occurred by 2015 (as shown on the right side).
Wildland fires can be a natural part of the forest ecosystem and important in many parts of Canada for maintaining the health and diversity of the forest. Combined with land use changes, such as the expansion of industrial operations or other development activities (shown at the bottom of the map in red), these impacts can result in cumulative effects such as loss of critical habitat for wildlife, or soil erosion that could impact water quality.
To explore other areas across Canada, you can use the navigation tools (+/-), located at the bottom right of the map.
Land cover information is necessary for a large range of environmental applications related to climate impacts and adaption, emergency response, and wildlife habitat. The Canada Centre for Remote Sensing of Natural Resources Canada generated this 30 metre resolution land cover map of Canada for the base years of 2010 and 2015.
Access Land Content:
The Open Science and Data Platform provides access to information on a wide range of topics relevant to Canada’s land, including land cover, land use, Indigenous lands, forestry, and agriculture. We invite you to explore these topics by clicking on the button below.