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Indicator: Wood volume

Canada’s forests contain an estimated 45 billion cubic metres of wood.

  • To remain stable, wood volume gains from forest growth and regeneration must offset losses from human-caused disturbances (such as harvesting or deforestation) and natural disturbances (such as forest fires, windstorms, diseases and insect infestations).
  • Volume decline between 1990 and 2016 is primarily due to natural disturbances.
  • From 1990 to 2016, the area of forest affected by fire and insects was 20 times greater than the area affected by harvesting and deforestation.

Wood volume includes the volume of all forest stands regardless of ownership, age class, protection status and whether or not the stand is managed for timber.

Volume estimates are based on the main tree stem, excluding bark but including the stump and the top as well as defective and decayed wood.

Estimated wood volume (million cubic meters) in Canada

Table showing in million cubic meters the estimated wood volume in Canada for the years 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2016.
Year 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2016
Wood volume 47,625.38 47,608.26 47,320.47 45,996.79 45,509.42 45,143.84 45,107.59

Why is this indicator important?

  • Trends in wood volume provide an indication of overall forest health and productivity.
  • Along with other information, wood volume is used to calculate forest biomass and carbon stocks.
  • Wood volume production rates are one of the inputs used to determine sustainable harvest levels for land managed for timber production.

What is the outlook?

  • Wood volume may take years or decades to recover in regions affected by large or severe disturbances, depending on the extent of mortality caused by the disturbances and on the rate of forest recovery.
  • Climate change is affecting forest disturbance patterns and tree growth rates. Future trends in the change of wood volume will depend on how forests adapt to climate change and on how management practices are adapted.
Man hiking on a large fallen tree trunk with large trunks towering behind.

What reporting frameworks does this indicator support?

Sources and information

Methodology used to adjust baseline estimates of wood volume

Canada’s National Forest Inventory (NFI) is completing the data processing, quality control, compilation and estimation for its first re-measurement cycle (2008 to 2017). Canada is therefore in a position to report national wood volume estimates for only one period using NFI data. NFI baseline data were collected from 2000 to 2006, and the wood volume estimate based on these data is reported here in the 2000 reporting year.

Forecasting and backcasting from 2000 was done using above-ground biomass carbon stock estimates from Canada's National Forest Carbon Monitoring Accounting and Reporting System (NFCMARS). Changes in wood volume should be closely related to changes in above-ground forest biomass and above-ground forest biomass carbon. Wood volume in 2000 was used to calculate wood volume in all other reporting years using the change in above-ground biomass carbon stock relative to 2000, as follows:

  • Wood volume in [year] = (wood volume in 2000) x (above-ground biomass in [year] / above-ground biomass in 2000)
  • Wood volume data are typically used to derive above-ground biomass and carbon data, but the opposite was done here because the NFI has only one complete measurement cycle whereas NFCMARS has a complete time series from 1990 to 2016.
  • In NFCMARS, the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector (CBM-CFS3) uses merchantable wood volume growth increment data and converts these to biomass and then carbon, but this all happens internally in the model, and CBM-CFS3 outputs are all in units of carbon (CBM-CFS3: a model of carbon-dynamics in forestry and land-use change implementing IPCC standards. 2009. Kurz et al.).
  • Note that NFCMARS does not provide data for all of Canada's forests. It is assumed here that the above-ground biomass carbon stock trend in Canada's managed forests is a good predictor of wood volume trend for Canada's entire forest (managed and unmanaged).

Photo credit

  • Hiking ancient cedars. Photo by stockstudioX/iStock by Getty Images.


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

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