How do forests benefit Canadians?

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

A house in a forest indicating that in 2016, approximately 3.9 million people lived in Canada’s boreal forest region.

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.

A hiker in a forest indicating that between 2016 and 2017, people visited Canada’s national parks in the boreal forest region approximately 9  million times.

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