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Sustainability indicators

Canada’s rich forest ecosystems are renewable resources that contribute to the quality of life of all Canadians. They offer significant environmental, social and cultural benefits, as well as opportunities for sustainable economic development.

Forests are an essential part of the solution to many global challenges. The ability of forests to mitigate the effects of climate change, provide renewable products and energy, support high-paying jobs, and contribute to a greener economy has received increasing attention. At the same time, climate change and extreme weather events affect Canada’s forests and those communities that depend on forests.

Two new sustainability indicators

This year, two new indicators have been included in this report: Forest area within protected areas and Forest area with long-term management plans (see links below). These indicators help to better demonstrate Canada’s progress toward sustainable forest management. Collaborative data collection initiatives between the federal, provincial and territorial governments, such as the National Forestry Database, help ensure consistent national data are available to support reporting on these and other indicators in this report. This, in turn, helps support science-based decision making, research and program delivery.

Careful monitoring demonstrates sustainability

Because of their importance, Canada’s forests need to be carefully monitored to ensure that any challenges to their health are addressed. Canada recognizes the need to balance in a holistic way the demands placed on its forests, so that current and future generations of Canadians can fully benefit.

Sustainability indicators are helpful tools to assess our forests and the benefits they provide. When measured over time, they:

  • provide essential information about the state of and trends in Canada’s forests
  • highlight any needs for improvement in forest management policies and practices
  • supply reliable information for discussions and initiatives related to environmental performance and trade

Using internationally agreed-upon indicators helps contribute to global forest reporting

Research scientist examining tree bark.

Canada is a member of the Montréal Process, an international working group of 12 northern and southern hemisphere nations committed to sustainable forest management. Since 1995, the Montréal Process member countries have used a common set of science-based criteria and indicators to measure progress toward the conservation and sustainable management of 90% of the world’s boreal and temperate forests.

The indicators presented in this section, together with information in the Statistical profiles section, reveal the state of and trends in Canada’s forests and forest practices over time. These indicators are comparable to sustainability indicators published by other countries participating in the Montréal Process. Canada also uses some of these indicators to report on the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

Demonstrating a flow of benefits in a changing environment

These indicators illustrate how Canada’s forests and society interact over time. The indicators also show the complexity of sustainable forest management, particularly in the face of climate change and other emerging issues.

Canada has many years of experience with sustainable forest management. Even as economic, environmental and social circumstances change, Canada will continue to manage forests to provide a broad range of benefits. Similarly, Canada’s trading partners can feel confident that Canadian forest products come from sustainably managed sources with strong environmental performance.

Two women snowshoeing through the forest.
Sustainability indicators
Additional information

The data in this report are derived from a number of sources, which are identified here by their relevant section. All data are subject to revision. Some numbers are rounded and therefore may not always exactly match the sum of their elements.

In most cases, the data represent the year before the reporting period. However, where they are gathered from several sources, it generally takes longer to compile and produce them. In these cases, the numbers reflect results from two or three years before the reporting period. As well, while most figures are calculated for the calendar year (January 1 to December 31), some are based on the federal government’s fiscal year (April 1 to March 31).

All dollar figures, unless specified otherwise, are in Canadian dollars.

It may not be possible to compare directly the data from the report’s various sections, as they come from several sources and those sources may compile their statistics differently from each other.

Dates on which data were accessed online are now included for sources including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the National Forest Inventory, the National Forestry Database, and Statistics Canada.

Photo credits
  • Photo of tree bark sampling courtesy of Roger Brett.
  • Two happy travelers with backpacks walking in a winter forest. Photo by Kirzaa/iStock by Getty Images.

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


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