Forests play a vital role in Canada’s economic health, with the forest industry accounting for some 297,000 direct and indirect jobs.
At the same time, forests also store carbon, preserve soils and nurture a diversity of species. These non-timber benefits are known as “ecosystem services.”
Accounting for ecosystem services accurately in policy- and decision-making is a difficult task, especially when some have clearer dollar values than others. However, Canadians increasingly recognize the many ecosystem services that forests provide, and resource agencies are starting to assess and estimate forests’ economic, social and environmental values.
The benefits provided by forest ecosystems include:
- goods such as timber, food, fuel and bioproducts
- ecological functions such as carbon storage, nutrient cycling, water and air purification, and maintenance of wildlife habitat
- social and cultural benefits such as recreation, traditional resource uses and spirituality
The primary challenge for sustainable forest management is finding ways to continue to benefit from ecological services without compromising the forest’s ability to provide those services.