Is timber being harvested sustainably?
Sustainable forest management (SFM) aims to maintain and enhance the environmental, social and economic values of forests for the benefit of present and future generations. It involves conserving biodiversity and protecting forest health, while ensuring the procurement of wood-based products and ecosystem services. Canadian forests are managed under the paradigms and guiding principles of sustainable forest management (for more information, see report section The 2022 State of Canada’s Forests Report: An overview.). In 2020, about 716,000 ha of forests were harvested in Canada, which corresponds to 0.2% of the forested land.
Key sustainability indicators
Explore the report to find information on the key sustainability indicators:
- Forest area harvested: Annual trends in forest area harvested on private and Crown land. This indicator is important for understanding the level of industrial activity in Canada’s forests and for assessing long-term sustainability of forests and the forest sector.
- Forest regeneration: Measure of area seeded, area planted and number of seedlings planted on provincial and territorial Crown land. Monitoring regeneration activities ensures harvested areas regrow as forests and continue to produce timber and maintain ecosystem services.
- Volume harvested relative to the sustainable wood supply: Information on the annual harvest compared to the supply that is deemed sustainable for harvest. This indicator is important to ensure the volume of industrial roundwood harvested each year falls within sustainable levels.
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Forest area harvested
Forest area harvested on private and Crown land in Canada, 2010–2020
In Canada, the proportion of forest area harvested on Crown lands compared to private lands remained stable from 2010 to 2020. About 90% of the forest area harvested was from Crown land, while the remaining 10% came from private land. The total area harvested has ranged from a low of about 708,000 hectares (ha) in 2011 to about 811,000 ha harvested in 2015. In 2020, roughly 716,000 ha of forest were harvested, which is a slight decrease from 2019 levels when about 747,000 ha were harvested.
Table showing the area harvested on private and Crown lands, in hectares, for each year from 2010 to 2020.
|Year||Area harvested (hectares)|
|Provincial and territorial Crown land||Private land|
Area artificially regenerated and number of seedlings planted on provincial and territorial Crown lands in Canada, 2010–2020
Between 2010 and 2012, the number of seedlings planted per year in Canada were at a relative low for the 10-year period of 2010 to 2020. From 2013 to 2016, the number of seedlings planted increased, then decreased until 2019, after which it increased slightly again (not exceeding 2006 levels).
For each year between 2010 and 2020, about 95% of the total area artificially regenerated was renewed by planting, of which about 5% was renewed by seeding. Between 2010 and 2012, the area artificially regenerated were at a relative low for the 10-year period of 2010 to 2020. Between 2013 and 2020, the area artificially regenerated remained fairly stable.
Table showing the area artificially regenerated in hectares and the number of seedlings planted (in millions) on provincial and territorial Crown lands in Canada from 2010 to 2020.
|Year||Area planted||Area seeded||Number of seedlings|
Volume harvested relative to the sustainable wood supply
Annual harvest versus supply deemed sustainable for harvest, 1990–2020
The total wood supply deemed sustainable for harvest has decreased slowly from about 250 million cubic metres (m3) in 1990 to about 215 million m3 in 2020.
The total area harvested was highest in 2004, at about 210 million m3; however, it declined steeply between 2004 and 2009, to a low of about 115 million m3 in 2009. From 2009 onward, the total harvest gradually increased to about 155 million m3 in 2018 but decreased to about 140 million m3 in 2020.
The softwood harvest followed the same pattern as the total area harvested, with a high of about 170 million m3 in 2004, to a low of about 95 million m3 in 2009. From 2009 onward, the softwood harvest gradually increased to nearly 130 million m3 in 2018 but decreased to about 115 million m3 in 2020.
The softwood supply deemed sustainable for harvest was about 180 million m3 in 1990. It was highest in 2007, at about 190 million m3. Since then, supply has decreased to nearly 160 million m3 in 2020.
The hardwood supply deemed sustainable for harvest has been stable at around 60 million m3 since 1990. Hardwood harvest was lowest in 1990 at about 15 million m3, highest in 2004 at about 40 million m3, and landing at almost 25 million m3 in 2020.
Table showing the annual volume of softwood and hardwood harvested, the total harvest, and the supply deemed sustainable for harvest (for all land types: provincial, territorial, federal and private), in millions of cubic metres, for each year, from 1990 to 2020.
|Year||Wood volume (million m3)|
|Total wood supply||Total harvest||Softwood supply||Softwood harvest||Hardwood supply||Hardwood harvest|
Sources and information
See Sources and information in the downloadable report for detailed sources.
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