Image: The Globe and Mail; Source: WWF-Canada
Canada’s most comprehensive national carbon map helps guide climate actions
2022

A new study by WWF-Canada, in collaboration with McMaster University’s Remote Sensing Lab, has uncovered fascinating new details about how much carbon is stored in Canada’s landscapes.

The Globe and Mail published a visual feature showcasing this incredible work, What lies beneath: Exploring Canada’s invisible carbon storehouse.

The results show that Canada’s terrestrial ecosystems store over 400 billion tonnes of carbon — the equivalent to about 30 years of human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions at 2019 emission levels.

Beyond the stunning amount of carbon found, the study also revealed where this carbon is stored. What may be surprising is that only 5% of Canada’s carbon is stored above ground in what we can easily see (trees, other plants, dead plant material and roots), with the remaining 95% found below ground in the top one metre of soil. Regions of particular carbon significance include the Hudson Bay and James Bay Lowlands, British Columbia’s coastal rainforest, and Canada’s boreal forest — all areas that are home to Indigenous communities who have stewarded the land since time immemorial.

This comprehensive analysis has critical implications for our fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

 

The findings of this study are monumental for conservation in Canada, and across the world. Knowing where carbon is stored in Canada allows us to strategically protect and manage the right places to prevent billions of tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere. Protecting these areas will also benefit wildlife by safeguarding habitat for important species at risk.

Megan Leslie

President and CEO, WWF-Canada

The disruption and degradation of these carbon-rich ecosystems will lead to significant emissions being released into the atmosphere. Accordingly, conserving the vast amount of carbon stored in Canada will be a huge asset in reaching our goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Nature-based climate solutions — which protect, manage, and restore natural ecosystems — can play an integral role in ensuring these globally significant stores of carbon are maintained. Based on data from this new national carbon map, regions can be prioritized for protection and management. The findings also highlight the importance of support for Indigenous communities to lead the stewardship of these vital landscapes.

Metcalf is a funding partner for this research along with Maple Leaf Foods. You can learn more about the study and findings on the WWF-Canada website.