Forestry in Canada

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Spruce forests in British Columbia

The Canadian forestry industry is a major contributor to the Canadian economy. With 39 percent of the land acreage of Canada covered by forests, the country contains 9 percent of the world's forested land.[1] The forests are made up mostly of spruce, poplar and pine. Forests and forestry in Canada are managed by Natural Resources Canada and the Canadian Forest Service, in cooperation with several organizations which represent government officials, policy experts and numerous other stakeholders.

Extensive deforestation by European settlers during the 18th and 19th centuries has been halted by more modern policies, and today less than 1 percent of Canada's forests are affected by logging each year. Despite the low amount of land that is logged, Canada is the world's second-largest exporter of forestry goods, and the industry contributes significantly to Canada's surplus global balance of trade.

Climate change is negatively impacting the productivity and health of Canadian forests. Economic concerns related to forestry include greenhouse gas emissions, biotechnology, biological diversity and infestations of pests, such as the mountain pine beetle.


Government legislation protects about 8 percent of the forested area, of which less than 1 percent is logged annually; this latter portion is required to be reforested after being harvested.[2] It is one of the five countries with the largest amount of forest, along with Russia, Brazil, China and the US; together, these countries control more than half of the world's forested land area.[3]

According to the FAO bureaucracy, forests and forestry in Canada are managed by Natural Resources Canada, which controls natural resources issues, and the Canadian Forest Service, which conducts research and coordinates forestry policy at the national level.[4] Forests were controlled until about 2010 by the provincial governments under the Division of Powers in Part VI of the Constitution Act, 1867.

The governments are assisted by the National Advisory Board on Forest Research, established in 1997 and focusing on strategic issues, and the Forest Sector Advisory Council, which represents the interests of the multitude of private, non-profit and academic stakeholders in Canadian forestry. The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, composed of 14 ministers representing the federal government and the various provinces and territories, is the main tool for dissemination of national and international policy throughout the country.[4]

History of forestry[edit]

European forestry in Canada is thought to date back to the 11th century, when Leif Erikson first landed off the coast of what is believed to be Newfoundland.[5] Large scale forestry did not begin until European settlers landed several centuries later. The area that is now Canada experienced significant deforestation during the 18th and 19th centuries, as a booming population of settlers cleared the land; this pattern was also seen elsewhere in North America. Changes in management strategies in the 20th and 21st centuries have been able to halt the trend toward deforestation.[6]

Forestry today[edit]

Forestry is a major industry in Canada, contributing over $24.6 billion in GDP to the economy in 2017.[7] In the same year, over 209,940 people were directly employed by the forestry industry, contributing 1.1 percent of total employment.[7] The majority of forestry employees are found in Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario,[2] and for the most part they work in the softwood trade. Conifer release programmes have been perfected in Canada since the 1950s. As of 2011, Canada contributed 10 percent of the world's sawnwood, 10 percent of the pulp for paper, 9 percent of the industrial roundwood, 4 percent of the wood-based panels and 3 percent of the paper and paperboard.[8] In 2010, Canada enjoyed a significant surplus in their balance of trade, mainly due to being the second-largest exporter of forestry products globally.[2] Much of this is exported, with Canada exporting 20 percent of the world's sawnwood, 18 percent of the pulp for paper, 8 percent of the paper and paperboard, 5 percent of the industrial roundwood and 5 percent of the wood-based panels.[9]

Environmental concerns[edit]

Mountain slopes in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, showing extensive fire damage to forested area

Canada's ecosystems depend on large forested areas.[10] However, climate change is increasing the average temperatures of Canadian forests. The Canadian boreal forest have experienced a 1.5 °C increase since.[11] There is even evidence that some regional areas within the western boreal forest in British Columbia have increased by 2 °C since 1948, and there is a high likelihood that these regions rise by another 3 or 4 degrees by the end of the century, thus permanently changing this ecosystem.[12] Climate change is negatively impacting the productivity of Canadian forests.[13]

Canada is a participant in several international protocols and conferences in areas that affect its forested land. As a signatory to the Paris climate accord, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are required. Biotechnology and its effect on forested land is a concern, and the conservation of the forest's biological diversity is a major priority. The latter was the subject of the country's first Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity report.[4]

Invasive species[edit]

Much of the valuable western lodgepole pine stock has been destroyed in recent years by the mountain pine beetle, which has thrived due to a combination of large stands of mature pine and successive warm winters. As of 2009, it was estimated that over 16,000,000 hectares (40,000,000 acres) of pine had been infested in British Columbia alone. While extensive logging, prescribed burning and pest reduction techniques have been used to attempt to contain the beetle, large stands of dead trees remain, posing a significant threat of wildfire.[14] Annually, Canada sees around 8,000 wildfires, burning a total of 2,500,000 hectares (6,200,000 acres) on average. Over half of these are caused by humans, but nature-caused fires (generally started by lightning strikes) cover over 80 percent of the total burn area, as they are often in remote areas of the country.[15]

The emerald ash borer is another major concern to Canadian forests responsible for the rapid decay of forests in Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.[16] The emerald ash borer was introduced into North America from Eastern Asia in the 1990s[17]

Assisted migration[edit]

Assisted migration is the act of moving plants or animals to a different habitat. In Canada, this is described as a climate change adaptation program proposal, most often discussed in the context of the relocalization of trees and forests. Indeed, as the Canadian climate gets warmer, tree species' become less adapted to the conditions of their historical southern or downhill range and more adapted to the climatic condition of areas north or uphill of their historical range.[18]

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia modified their tree reseeding guidelines to account for the northward and uphill movement of forests' optimal ranges.[18] British Columbia even gave the green light for the relocation of a single species, the Western Larch, 1000 km northward.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Canada, Natural Resources (2015-06-11). "how-much-forest-does-canada-have". Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  2. ^ a b c "Forests". Government of Canada. 2013-11-21. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  3. ^ "Forest Cover". Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  4. ^ a b c "Forestry policies, institutions and programmes - Canada". Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  5. ^ Ingstad, Helge; Ingstad, Anne Stine (2001). The Viking Discovery of America: The Excavation of a Norse Settlement in L'Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland. Checkmark Books. ISBN 0-8160-4716-2.
  6. ^ "Chapter 2: Forests and the Evolution of the Modern World" (PDF). State of the World's Forests. Food and Agriculture Organization. 2012. p. 14. External link in |title= (help)
  7. ^ a b "Forest Fact Book 2018-2019" (PDF). Natural Resources Canada. Natural Resources Canada. 2019. pp. 2, 8, 9. Retrieved 2019-09-23.
  8. ^ "Forest product consumption and production". Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  9. ^ "Forest products trade". Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  10. ^ Michael Fitzsimmons (2003). "Effects of deforestation and reforestation on landscape spatial structure in boreal Saskatchewan, Canada". Forest Ecology and Management. 174 (1–3): 577–592. doi:10.1016/S0378-1127(02)00067-1.
  11. ^ Prasad, Anantha; Pedlar, John; Peters, Matt; McKenney, Dan; Iverson, Louis; Matthews, Steve; Adams, Bryce (September 2020). "Combining US and Canadian forest inventories to assess habitat suitability and migration potential of 25 tree species under climate change". Diversity and Distributions. 26 (9): 1142–1159. doi:10.1111/ddi.13078. ISSN 1366-9516.
  12. ^ "Annual Regional Temperature Departures". Environment Canada. Archived from the original on January 18, 2012. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
  13. ^ Hogg, E.H.; P.Y. Bernier (2005). "Climate change impacts on drought-prone forests in western Canada". Forestry Chronicle. 81 (5): 675–682. doi:10.5558/tfc81675-5.
  14. ^ "Mountain Pine Beetle". Province of British Columbia. Archived from the original on 2012-12-30. Retrieved 2013-08-10.
  15. ^ "Wildfires". Government of Canada. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  16. ^ Wang, Xiao-Yi; Yang, Zhong-Qi; Gould, Juli R.; Zhang, Yi-Nan; Liu, Gui-Jun; Liu, EnShan (2010-08-09). "The Biology and Ecology of the Emerald Ash Borer, Agrilus planipennis, in China". Journal of Insect Science. 10 (128): 128. doi:10.1673/031.010.12801. ISSN 1536-2442. PMC 3016904. PMID 20879922.
  17. ^ Government of Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada. "Information archivée dans le Web" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  18. ^ a b Williams, Mary I.; Dumroese, R. Kasten (2014). "Assisted Migration: What It Means to Nursery Managers and Tree Planters" (PDF). Tree Planters’ Notes. 57 (1): 21–26.
  19. ^ Klenk, Nicole L. (2015-03-01). "The development of assisted migration policy in Canada: An analysis of the politics of composing future forests". Land Use Policy. 44: 101–109. doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2014.12.003. ISSN 0264-8377.