Forests in Canada
Section 1 Introduction

Canada's forests are diverse and dynamic ecosystems that provide many benefits to Canadians. Forests are also a renewable resource and are an important component of Canada's natural capital. In addition to providing timber and other forest products, forests provide habitat for wildlife, sequester carbon, filter air and water and offer recreational, spiritual and other benefits.

Although the forest sector experienced a significant decline in the late 2000s, with decreases in its overall contribution to gross domestic product, exports and employment, it continues to play an important role in the economy, particularly in many smaller and remote communities. Canada's forests are managed to sustain the multiple economic, social and environmental benefits they provide to society and to minimize the environmental impacts of forest operations.

Human Activity and the Environment 2017: Forests in Canada tells the story of Canada's forests, providing up-to-date statistics on forest area; forest products and ecosystem services; economic and social contributions of the forest sector; and forest management activities and environmental impacts.

The report is organized as follows:

Section 1 – Introduction

Section 2 – Forests and the forest sector in Canada

2.1 Forest resources provides the statistics on Canada's tree cover, as well as forest area, age structure, timber volume, natural disturbance and deforestation by ecozone.

2.2 Forest products and ecosystem services provides data on timber and non-timber forest products, biodiversity and selected ecosystem goods and services including carbon sequestration and recreation.

2.3 Forest sector provides data on gross domestic product, production, exports, employment, compensation and communities.

2.4 Forest management provides the latest statistics on harvested areas, regeneration, certification and protection of Canada's forests as well as information and data on selected environmental impacts associated with the forest sector.

2.5 Conclusion

Section 3 – Glossary


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Textbox 1.1 What you need to know about this study

This report is based on data from the National Forestry Database (NFD), the National Forest Inventory (NFI) and Statistics Canada, and also includes a variety of information from other sources.

In Canada, the provinces and territories are responsible for developing forestry legislation and policy. Forestry operations must also meet federal legislation and international agreements. The Canadian Forest Service (CFS) of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is the main agency responsible for compiling national forestry statistics and monitoring and reporting on Canada's forests.

Forest management data (e.g., volume of wood harvested, area harvested and areas burned or damaged by insects) are collected by provincial and territorial governments and reported annually through the NFD, managed by NRCan.

The NFI is a statistical sampling program that collects data on Canada's forest area over time. It is carried out by the provinces, territories and NRCan. Monitoring is based on remote sensing—high resolution satellite imagery and aerial photographs. Photo plots are 2 km by 2 km and are located systematically on a 20 km by 20 km national sampling grid with reduced sampling in the north. In addition, field surveys are used for about 8% of the photo plots. The sampling points are stratified by ecozone.

The first cycle of the NFI was established from 2000 to 2006 and re-measurement occurs on a 10-year cycle with the current re-measurement cycle occurring from 2008 to 2017. Estimates of forest area change at the Canada-level are produced annually using data from Canada's National Deforestation Monitoring System, which was designed to meet information needs for reporting under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Map data created by the CFS are used to visually represent treed area and species composition information. These data are statistically imputed from the NFI photo plots using the k nearest neighbour (kNN) mapping method and data from 26 geospatial layers including moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) spectral data to produce maps with a 250 m x 250 m pixel spatial resolution.

Statistics Canada produces data on the value of timber assets, environmental protection expenditures, water use and greenhouse gas emissions, lumber and wood chip production, GDP, exports, employment and compensation, income and population.

Spatial data are used to illustrate the areas affected by wildfire, harvesting activities, changes in climate and linear features such as roads, rail lines, transmission lines and cutlines, as well as the population and population change in communities for which the forest sector is a major source of income.

Definitions: forest, other wooded land, tree cover, land cover and land use

Forest is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as "land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 metres and a canopy cover of more than 10%, or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ. It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use."Note 1 Forest may include treed areas and non-treed areas (e.g., areas that have recently been harvested and that are temporarily unstocked).

Non-forest land includes other wooded land, other land and other land with tree cover.

Note: The above definition of forest differs from that used by Canada for reporting under the UNFCCC, which uses a forest canopy cover of more than 25%.Note 2

Land cover refers to the observed physical and biological surface of the earth and includes biotic (living, such as vegetation) and abiotic (non-living, such as rocks) surfaces. For example, tree cover, grassland, shrubland, cropland, barren land, built-up, wetland and open water are some typical land cover classes. Land cover is usually determined using aerial or satellite imagery.

Tree cover and shrub cover refer to areas with trees and shrubs; however, these areas may or may not meet the FAO criteria for forests. They may include, for example, urban parks, woodlands on farms or treed areas around homes.

Land use describes the economic and social functions of land to meet human demands—how people are using land. For example, typical land use classes might include settlements, agricultural land, recreational areas or forest management areas. Land use can impact the natural environment and therefore may result in changes in land cover. Many land use classifications use land cover to describe natural and semi-natural vegetation, land use to describe agricultural and urban areas and a combination of the two to describe forests.Note 3

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The annual Human Activity and the Environment publications bring together data from many sources to present a statistical portrait of Canada's environment, with special emphasis on human activity and its relationship to natural elements—air, water, soil, plants and animals. Each issue provides accessible and relevant information on an environmental issue of concern to Canadians.


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