Forests provide a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits for both individual Canadians and the communities in which they live.
Forests provide economic opportunities
The forest industry provides economic benefits through jobs and income. These benefits are especially important in rural and Indigenous communities.
In 2017, the forest industry accounted for 209,940 direct jobs — including foresters, scientists, engineers, computer technologists, technicians and skilled tradespeople — and an estimated 107,380 indirect jobs in related industries. These jobs help ensure the economic sustainability of rural communities, and the benefits trickle down through entire local economies.
Timber is not the only forest product that provides economic benefits for Canadians. Non-timber forest products, including forest-based foods such as maple syrup, blueberries, mushrooms and game meat, contribute significantly to the economies of many rural communities.
Social and cultural benefits of forests are important to Canadians
Eleven million Canadians live in or adjacent to forested land.
The social and cultural benefits of forests are harder to quantify than the economic ones, but for both rural and urban Canadians they offer many opportunities, such as ecotourism and recreation. Forests are also of great cultural, aesthetic and spiritual importance to many people across the country, especially Indigenous peoples.
Forests provide ecosystem services and other environmental benefits
Forests benefit Canadians environmentally through the range of essential ecosystem services that they provide. For example, forests preserve soils, cycle nutrients and support biodiversity. Trees and other forest plants filter pollutants from air and water, acting as natural cleansers. Trees in cities and other urban areas help improve air and water quality and reduce surface and air temperatures.
By absorbing and storing carbon, forests also play a key role in the carbon cycle – the constant movement of carbon from the land and water to the atmosphere and living organisms – and in maintaining the global carbon balance. In addition, they help moderate climate change by absorbing carbon emitted by human activities like burning fossil fuels.
Growing evidence demonstrates the benefit of forests for mental health and well-being
In addition to the benefits outlined above, healthy urban forests generate direct and indirect benefits for health and social wellness. A growing body of socio-economic and clinical studies indicates that access to trees in urban areas can increase the longevity of seniors, improve health outcomes for children and youth, lower levels of stress and increase workplace satisfaction.
Sources and information
- Bell, J.F., Wilson, J.S., et al. 2008. Neighbourhood greenesss and 2-year changes in body mass index of children and youth. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 35, 547–553.
- Kaplan, R. 2007. Employees' reaction to nearby nature at their workplace: The wild and the tame. Landscape and Urban Planning 82, 17–24.
- Lottrup, L., Grahn, P., et al. 2013. Workplace greenery and perceived level of stress: Benefits of access to a green outdoor environment at the workplace. Landscape and Urban Planning 110, 5–11.
- Mosquin, T., Whiting, P., et al. 1995. Canada’s Biodiversity: The variety of life, its status, economic benefits, conservation costs and unmet needs. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Centre for Biodiversity, Canadian Museum of Nature.
- Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service calculations are based on 1) Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of Population, and 2) Natural Resources Canada, North American boreal zone map shapefiles
- “Adjacent” (in “Canadians who live in or adjacent to forested areas”) is not defined by a specific distance from a forested area, but through analyses. Forested area data are laid over Statistics Canada dissemination areas (DAs); if any portion of a DA contains forested land, the entire population of that DA is considered to live in or adjacent to forests.
- Statistics Canada defines a dissemination area as a “small area composed of one or more neighbouring blocks, with a population of 400 to 700 persons.” A DA is a “relatively stable geographic unit” and “the smallest standard geographic area for which all census data are disseminated.” All of Canada is divided into dissemination areas.
- GIS-based analyses used the BOREAL and B_ALPINE layers.
- Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service calculations are based on 1) Parks Canada, Parks Canada Attendance 2016-17, and 2) Natural Resources Canada, North American boreal zone map shapefiles
- GIS-based analyses used the BOREAL and B_ALPINE layers.
- Parks Canada attendance data were not available for 5 out of the 20 of parks located within Canada’s boreal region.
- Park, B.J., Tsunetsugu, Y., et al. 2010. The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): Evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine 15, 18–26.
- Statistics Canada. CANSIM table 383-0031: Labour statistics consistent with the System of National Accounts (SNA), by province and territory, job category and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) (accessed May 23, 2018).
- Takano, T., Nakamura, K., et al. 2002. Urban residential environments and senior citizens’ longevity in megacity areas: The importance of walkable green spaces. Epidemiology and Community Health 56, 913–918.
- Yamaguchi, M., Deguchi, M., et al. 2006. The effects of exercise in forest and urban environments on sympathetic nervous activity of normal young adults. International Medical Research 34, 152–159.
- Date Modified: