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How do forests benefit Canadians?

Canadians across the country benefit from a vast array of economic, social and environmental outcomes from forests.

Key contributor to the Canadian economy

The Canadian forest sector provides quality, well-paying jobs to Canadians. Furthermore, it is a key economic engine for many communities across the country, including rural and Indigenous communities.

The sector directly employed 210,615 people in 2018 – foresters, scientists, engineers, computer technologists, technicians and skilled tradespeople – and is responsible for an additional 91,874 indirect jobs in the rest of the economy. These jobs support 300 communities across the country. Many of these communities, often far from urban areas, would have few or no alternatives without the forest sector.

Wood products made from sustainably managed forests, as is the case in Canada, are central to the bioeconomy. In addition to being sustainable products, they are an effective way to trap carbon.

 
Who works where in the forestry sector?
Donut chart showing the percentage of employment in each of four forestry sub-sectors: forestry and logging, wood product manufacturing, paper manufacturing, and support activities for forestry, described below.
Graph data
Table showing the percentage of employment in each of four forestry sub-sectors: forestry and logging, wood product manufacturing, paper manufacturing, and support activities for forestry.
Forestry sub-sector Percent of total (%)
Forestry and logging 17%
Support activities for forestry 7%
Wood product manufacturing 48%
Paper manufacturing 28%

More than a job provider

Forests provide much more than jobs. Some of those other benefits might be harder to measure. But we know that approximately 11 million Canadians living in or adjacent to forested areas, as well as those living in urban areas, deeply value and enjoy forests.

Also, forests provide recreational and ecotourism opportunities for people living in both urban and rural areas and are important for cultural, aesthetic and spiritual reasons. More and more, remote communities across the country are taking advantage of local forest resources to support reliable and affordable bioheat systems and reduce reliance on diesel.

 

Home to a complex ecosystem

Forests benefit Canadians environmentally with the rich ecosystem they support. This ecosystem preserves soils, cycles nutrients and supports biodiversity. Trees and other forest plants filter pollutants from air and water, acting as natural cleansers.

By absorbing and storing carbon, forests play a key role in the carbon cycle – the constant movement of carbon from the land and water to the atmosphere and living organisms. This cycle helps maintain the global carbon balance. In addition, forests can help moderate climate change by absorbing carbon emitted by human activities such as burning fossil fuels. Trees in cities and other urban areas also help improve air and water quality and reduce surface and air temperatures.

 
Sources and information
  • Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service. Calculations based on 1) Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of Population, and 2) Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service, 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.
  • Statistics Canada. Table 36-10-0489-01 (formerly CANSIM 383-0031): Labour statistics consistent with the System of National Accounts (SNA), by job category and industry. (accessed May 22, 2019).
  • Statistics Canada. Table 38-10-0285-01 (formerly CANSIM 388-0010): Natural resources satellite account, indicators. (accessed June 18, 2018).
    • Indirect employment is calculated by Natural Resources Canada using Statistics Canada’s National Symmetric Input-Output Tables (15-207-XCB) and Statistics Canada’s National Multipliers (15F0046XDB).
 

Table of contents — The State of Canada's Forests Report

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