A new study by WWF-Canada, led by researchers at McMaster University’s Remote Sensing Laboratory—supported by Maple Leaf Foods Inc. and the Metcalf Foundation—reveals, for the first time, how much carbon is stored in Canada’s landscapes, and the locations of the most carbon-rich areas.
It found a total of 405 Pg—that’s 405 billion tonnes—of carbon stored in ecosystems across Canada, the equivalent to about 30 years of human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions, at 2019 emission levels. The findings have been mapped to show the density of carbon—in different geographic locations—in trees and other plants to two metres below ground.
It’s the first-ever comprehensive analysis of its kind and has major implications for conservation actions—particularly as a tool for guiding nature-based climate solutions.
The findings show that 95 per cent of carbon in Canada (384 Pg) is found in the top one metre of soil, with 24 per cent of that found in peatlands. This indicates that a quarter of the world’s soil carbon stock is found in Canada—a disproportionate amount that brings with it a global responsibility.
The rest of Canada’s carbon is found in plant biomass (trees, other plants, dead plant material and roots).
Areas of particularly high densities of carbon include the old-growth forests of coastal British Columbia, large swaths of boreal forest, and the globally significant peatlands in the Hudson and James Bay Lowlands.
High-carbon landscapes play an important role in regulating the Earth’s climate by removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in natural ecosystems. If these ecosystems are disturbed, that stored carbon can be released back to the atmosphere, accelerating climate change.
Key research findings include:
- A quarter of the world’s soil carbon stock is found in Canada—a disproportionate amount that brings with it a global responsibility
- 405 billion tonnes of carbon stored in ecosystems across Canada, the equivalent to about 30 years of human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions, at 2019 emission levels
- 95 per cent of the carbon in Canada is found within top levels of soil and 24 per cent found in peatlands
As the worlds’ first major carbon neutral food company, Maple Leaf Foods is committed to leading in sustainability and is one of 42 Canadian companies to have set science-based emissions reduction targets in alignment with climate science.
“As increased carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases are a major accelerator of climate change, Maple Leaf Foods is proud to support this groundbreaking research alongside WWF-Canada, the Metcalf Foundation and McMaster University,” said Tim Faveri, VP, Sustainability and Shared Value, Maple Leaf Foods. “As the first major carbon neutral food company in the world, we recognize the study’s significance in deepening understanding of how to prioritize future conservation and soil regeneration efforts. This baseline is vitally important to the future generations of all Canadians.”