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How do forests benefit Canadians?

Forests provide Canadians a wealth of benefits that go beyond providing jobs and income. Forests provide habitat for living things, fight flooding, keep us cool, feed us, heal us and provide sanctuaries of spiritual meaning for many Canadians and Indigenous people.

Forest ecosystems are essential to life on earth

A forest ecosystem is a dynamic place where living things like plants, animals and microbes interact with their environment and depend on each other for survival. Living organisms, including humans, depend on the services these forest ecosystems provide.

At a regional level, forests provide many services. They preserve soils that help prevent flooding, they provide habitat that support biodiversity, they provide shade that keep our cities cool and they help filter pollutants from the air that can affect human health.

At a global scale, forests are an essential component of the Earth’s carbon cycle where carbon transforms and moves between four major reservoirs—the atmosphere (air), the lithosphere (land), the biosphere (living organisms) and the hydrosphere (water). Forests contribute to this cycle by absorbing and storing carbon in the leaves, stems, trunks, branches and roots of growing trees.  This capacity to store carbon, including carbon emitted from human activities, explains why trees have a key role in moderating climate change.

A woman in a red kayak paddling on the water with forest-covered mountains behind her.

More than 70% of Indigenous people in Canada live in or near forests.

Forests are a hub of social and cultural meaning

Forests are essential to many Canadians’ recreational activities and spiritual well-being. They serve as natural playgrounds for many activities like hiking, horseback riding, bird-watching and camping. For many Indigenous people, forests are essential to cultural traditions, such as hunting and trapping, and also serve as spiritual sanctuaries. The sustainable management of forest ecosystems allow us to benefit from all of the wonderful things we love about the great outdoors.

Forests are the source of a renewable natural resource—wood!

Forests are sustainably managed in Canada so that they can continue to provide social and cultural benefits and ecosystem services, while also providing goods such as wood and other forest products and services to Canadians. In 2019, the forest sector provided 205,000 jobs for Canadians, including about 12,000 jobs for Indigenous people, and was the primary source of economic wellbeing for 300 communities in Canada. As declared and experienced during the COVID pandemic, forest sector services and products are deemed to be essential to Canadians.

 
Sources and information
  • Forest-reliant communities
    • Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service. Calculations based on Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census of Population.
    • Statistics Canada. 2016 Census of Population.
      • This analysis is based on Statistics Canada’s census subdivisions. A subdivision is “the general term for municipalities (as determined by provincial/territorial legislation) or areas treated as municipal equivalents for statistical purposes (e.g. Indian reserves, Indian settlements and unorganized territories).” Since there is no standardized definition of community across provinces and territories, using census subdivisions allows for a consistent approach in reporting over time. In 2016, Canada was divided into 5,161 census subdivisions.
      • In 2019, the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) adopted a new method for identifying communities that rely on economic activity from natural resource sectors. The method is based on the sector dependence index (SDI), a well-established approach to assess the relative importance of a given sector to local economies. In addition to considering the share of total income generated from the forest sector, CFS used the SDI to establish if the forest sector provides a high number of jobs relative to the average Canadian community. The calculations also established if there are many other sectors that are also a source of jobs for local residents.
      • In 2018, The State of Canada’s Forests Annual Report noted that the forest sector was a major source of income for 105 census subdivisions in Canada. In 2019, following the new method, it reported that 300 Canadian communities rely on the forest sector for a significant share of economic activity.
      • Employment data from Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census of Population refers to the number of people employed, not in the labour force (which includes those people unemployed).
  • Number of Indigenous people and Canadians that live in or near forests
    • Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service. Calculations based on Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census of Population and Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service’s National Forest Inventory’s forested land cover.
    • National Forest Inventory.
    • Statistics Canada. 2016 Census of Population.
      • Spatial (geographic information system) analysis used the two previous sources to calculate the percentage of forest cover by census subdivision (CSD). To be considered forested, a CSD needed to contain >=25% of forested land cover. Populations residing within those forested CSDs are considered living in or near forests.
      • This analysis is based on Statistics Canada’s census subdivisions. A subdivision is “the general term for municipalities (as determined by provincial/territorial legislation) or areas treated as municipal equivalents for statistical purposes (e.g. Indian reserves, Indian settlements and unorganized territories).” Since there is no standardized definition of community across provinces and territories, using census subdivisions allows for a consistent approach in reporting over time. In 2016, Canada was divided into 5,161 census subdivisions.
  • Indigenous employment in the forest sector
    • Statistics Canada. 2016 Census of Population (special extraction, April 20, 2018).
      • Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service calculations for Indigenous employment are based on Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census of Population.
      • These values refer to the number of people employed, not in the labour force, which includes those unemployed.
      • Indigenous refers to people who are First Nations (North American Indian), Métis or Inuk (Inuit). Indigenous also refers to people who are Registered or Treaty Indians (that is, registered under the Indian Act) and/or those who have membership in a First Nation or Indian band.
  • Total employment
    • 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 June 2, 2020).
      • Data include NAICS 113, 1153, 321, and 322.
      • Employment includes jobs held by people employed directly in the following industries: forestry and logging, support activities for forestry, pulp and paper product manufacturing, and wood product manufacturing.
      • Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service prefers to use employment data from Statistics Canada’s System of National Accounts (SNA) because these data are linked to the underlying framework used to compile the Canadian System of National Accounts.
      • Statistics Canada updated the Labour statistics consistent with the System of National Accounts (SNA) in February 2020, which included several changes to the 2018 employment data for NAICS 113, 1153, 321, and 322 that were initially released on May 22nd, 2019. This means that the 2018 SNA data reported here are adjusted from values reported in previous editions of the State of Canada’s Forests: Annual Report.
Photo credit:
  • Beautiful Kayaker stock photo by philsajonesen/iStock by Getty Images
 

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

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