What are ancient forests?

boreal forest


Ancient forests are the planet’s old-growth and original forests. According to the World Resources Institute, almost 80 per cent of the world's original forests have been degraded or completely destroyed. Much of this loss of ancient forests is due to human industrial use of these forests including logging, clearing for agricultural land, and oil, gas and hydroelectric development.

Ancient Forests at Risk

Throughout the world, ancient forests are in crisis. Many of the plants and animals that live in these forests face extinction. And many of the people and cultures that depend on ancient forests for their way of life are also under threat. Ten million hectares (25 million acres) of ancient forest are being cleared or destroyed every year around the world. That's an area the size of a soccer field lost every two seconds. In fact, ancient forests cover only seven per cent of the Earth's entire land surface.

The world’s ancient forests maintain environmental systems are essential for life on Earth. They influence weather by controlling rainfall and evaporation of water from soil. They help stabilize the world's climate by storing large amounts of carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate change. These forests also house around two-thirds of the world's land-based species of plants and animals. They are home to millions of forest-based communities and people who depend on them for their survival — economically and spiritually.

The Boreal Forest — North America's Wilderness

One of the ancient forests Kimberly-Clark continues to destroy is North America’s Boreal forest. The Boreal forest stretches across the country, from the eastern Alaskan to Labrador. The Boreal has evolved for over 10,000 years and is the largest tract of ancient forest left in North America, making the protection of the Boreal forest absolutely critical. Representing 25 per cent of the world’s remaining ancient forests, North America’s Boreal forest truly is a global treasure.

The Boreal has evolved for over 10,000 years and is the largest tract of ancient forest left in North America.


The thick layers of moss, soil and peat of the Boreal forest form one of the world’s largest terrestrial storehouses of carbon. This carbon storehouse plays an enormous role in fighting climate change.

The Boreal forest is also home to hundreds of wide-ranging wildlife species, including moose, caribou, lynx, bear and wolves. Eagles, hawks, owls, 30 per cent of North America’s songbirds and 40 per cent of its waterfowl nest in the forests and wetlands. The Boreal is a diverse and awe-inspiring landscape of granite outcrops, lakes, rivers, and marshes interspersed with pine, spruce, fir and poplar forests.

bald eagle

Also contained in the Boreal is a rich cultural legacy. It is a source of sustenance for northern communities and indigenous peoples of Canada - First Nations and Métis. Almost 80 per cent of Canada’s aboriginal people live in more than 600 communities in Canada’s forest regions.

Although many areas of the Boreal forest are still subject to unsettled land claims and disputed treaties, controversial logging by industrial giants continues on these same lands. At the same time, many northern communities continue to struggle to be economically and ecologically sustainable.

» Read an ancient forest crimes case study

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