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Forests: North America

Forest extent: North America

Forests cover about 26 per cent of North America, and their area - though not their quality - is increasing

Note: dark green represents closed forest, more than 40 per cent covered with trees more than 5 metres high; mid-green represents open (10-40 per cent coverage) and fragmented forest; light green represents other woodland, shrubland and bushland

Source: FAO 2001

Forests cover about 26 per cent of North America's land area and represent more than 12 per cent of the world's forests. North America has more than onethird of the world's boreal forests as well as a wide range of other forest types. Some 96 per cent are natural forests. After the Russian Federation and Brazil, Canada has more forest than any other country, with 244.6 million ha. The United States is the fourth most forested country, with 226 million ha (FAO 2001). While Canada's forest area remained static during the past decade, in the United States it has increased by almost 3.9 million ha, approximately 1.7 per cent.

Estimates show that North America now grows 255.5 million m3 more timber annually than is harvested (UNECE and FAO 2000). The region accounts for about 40 per cent of the world's production and consumption of industrial wood products (Mathews and Hammond 1999).

The land area under plantation is also increasing in both countries. In Canada, the area regenerated by planting increased from a little less than 100 000 ha in 1975 to nearly 400 000 ha in 1997 (REGEN 2002), while the United States has about 21 million ha of plantations or some 4.5 per cent of its forest land base (UNECE and FAO 2000).

In Canada, 94 per cent of forests are publicly owned, with the provinces responsible for 71 per cent of forest land (NRC 2000). In contrast, some 60 per cent of forests in the United States are privately owned, 35 per cent are publicly owned and managed by the federal government, and the 50 states own and manage 5 per cent (FAO 2001).