Canada is the third-largest forested area in the world. The enormous amount of forested land is an obvious explanation as to why large-scale commercial forest harvesting is taking place in Canada and contributes a lot to its economy. However, the deforestation of such a large number of trees has affected the environment in a severe way. If steps are taken to manage forests with a more sustainable approach, then attempts can be made to restore the environment and preserve it.
Approximately 38 percent of Canadian land is a forested area, that is, 3.4 million out of 9.1 million km². A little more than half of this amount is categorized as commercial forests, or forests with marketable trees that are produced in a reasonable amount of time. About 11% of this is owned by the federal government, 80% by the provinces, and the rest by private owners, such as individuals and corporations. These forests have been set aside solely for commercial purposes.
The forestry industry is rooted in all Canadian regions, with the exception of the far north. It is primarily in Ontario and Quebec, with 52% of total forestry jobs in those provinces, as well as 39% in Western Canada and the Prairies, and 9% in Atlantic Canada. Canadian forests account for 10% of the world’s forests. The forestry industry has three subsectors: solid wood product manufacturing, pulp and paper product manufacturing, and forestry and logging. The solid wood product manufacturing sector produces softwood lumber, structural panels, millwork, and engineered wood products, while the pulp and paper product manufacturing sector produces newsprint, household tissues, and dissolving pulp, and the forestry and logging sector manufactures timber.
Canada is the world’s largest exporter of forest products. Due to its timber, it is able to efficiently manufacture a large variety of forest products, such as softwood lumber, newsprint, wood pulp, wood panels, and value-added products. Though the country produces a large number of products annually, only 1% of commercially forested area is cut down.
The forestry industry contributes greatly to Canada’s economy for many decades. In 2013, it contributed $19.8 billion (1.25%) to Canada’s GDP. Out of that, the solid wood product manufacturing, pulp and paper product manufacturing, and timber sectors each contributed 44%, 36%, and 20% respectively. While 51% of logging and 45% of wood industry activity take place in British Columbia, together, Quebec and Ontario account for 62% percent of pulp and paper industry activity. In 2017, forestry industry products were about 7.2% of total Canadian exports, contributing approximately $24.6 billion to the Canadian economy. Additionally, the growth of the Canadian forestry industry has aided in the development of other manufacturing and service industries.
Although the forest industry makes up a smaller percentage of the Canadian economy, it generates more jobs and helps more with the balance of trade than other natural resource industries. The most contributions from the forestry industry to the Canadian economy come from traditional forest products, such as lumber, other solid wood products, pulp and paper, and forestry activities such as forest management and logging. In 2017, approximately 209,940 people, including about 11,565 Indigenous employees, were employed in the forest industry. Additionally, about 200 rural communities in Canada rely on the forest industry for at least half of their income.
Although Canada had been primarily exporting forest products to the US, the industry was forced to expand its exports to other countries in 2008 after the US housing crash and the global financial crisis started. The increase in exports to Asian countries, primarily China, has helped increase the impacts of the forestry industry on the economy.
One of the negative effects of clear-cutting is deforestation, which is the clearing of the planet’s forests and results in damage to the land quality. Approximately 30% of the planet’s land area is still covered by forests, but sections half the size of England are cut down annually. At this rate, all of Earth’s forests could disappear within a century. Logging operations, which manufacture wood and paper products, cut an enormous amount of trees yearly. However, loggers, some illegally, construct roads to travel to more remote forests, resulting in more deforestation. Furthermore, deforestation affects the environment in a negative way because it results in the loss of the habitats of millions of species. About 80% of the planet’s land animals have adopted forests as a habitat, and will not be able to survive deforestation. Moreover, clear-cutting replaces mixed-age, biologically diverse forests with single-age, single, or few species plantings. Single species planting, the practice also known as monoculture, decreases biodiversity and increases disease susceptibility. As well, clear-cutting depends on roads to transport timber, but building these roads causes root damage, erodes topsoil, and pollutes streams. Additionally, it gets rid of small trees, snags, boles, and woody debris on which invertebrates and fungi depend.
Another negative effect of clear-cutting, also environmentally related, is its contribution to climate change. Trees are a part of the natural water cycle, as they transpire water back into the atmosphere. However, a lack of trees may cause forests to become deserts, because moist forest soils rapidly dry up without the protection of trees. The removal of trees takes away portions of its canopy, which blocks solar rays during the day and retains heat during the night. It causes more “extreme temperature swings” that can be dangerous for both plant and animal life.
Between 35 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere every year, approximately 1.6 billion tonnes, is caused by deforestation. Trees are crucial to the environment in that they absorb the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. However, the fewer the forests there are, the larger the amounts of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere, thus quickening the rate and severity of global warming. Furthermore, when trees are clear-cut, all the carbon emissions that had been previously absorbed by the trees re-enter the environment, releasing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The most practical solution to deforestation is sustainably managing forest resources by not practicing clear-cutting to ensure that forests do not get as severely affected as they do currently. Additionally, there needs to be a balance in the forest industry; older trees that are cut down need to be replaced by younger trees.
Sustainable forest management focuses on what is left behind, not what has already been cut down. Instead of clear-cutting forests and tracts, the method of selective cutting can be practiced. This involves mature or unwanted trees being cut down, which encourages the growth of healthy trees of different ages, and maintains the biodiversity of the rest of the ecosystem. Moreover, practices of artificial planting, herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers are not employed.
Using methods such as selectively cutting merchantable timber allows new tree growth. One way to practice this is single-tree selection, which involves cutting individual trees at a time. Furthermore, trees can be cut down into clusters to create gaps in a forest, known as group selection, which is economically beneficial as it makes the most efficient use of available growing space, soil, and light. A third method is cutting down small areas of land instead of individual trees. An example of a place that practices this is the Douglas fir forests in the Canadian Pacific slope and the western US. Wedge-shaped gaps of cleared ground are formed when logging by powerful yarding machines. Parts of the forest enveloping the area are left for years to provide the barren area with shelter and seed. The wind carries many seeds into the area, resulting in the growth of new seedlings first. When the young trees have matured and are able to bear seeds, the sections surrounding them that had been left before may be cleared. Similar methods clear strips cut across the forest or circular areas gradually expanding until they merge, and are used in France and Germany.
In general, forest management is mostly for economic benefit, because the forest industry can only be effective if it can operate continuously. Although foresters believe it is best to cut down a tree after a long time while it grows, there is a way in which a moderate number of trees can be cut down indefinitely every year if the annual harvest and amount of crop destroyed through fire, diseases, insects, and other factors are outweighed by the yearly growth. A crucial factor of this is a crop’s rotation period or the age up to which the crop can be grown before it is cultivated. Some short rotation periods in tropical regions: are 7 years for Leucaena (firewood), 10 years for eucalyptus, and 20 years for pine (pulpwood). Hypothetically, sustained yield can be practiced by the cutting down and replanting of a tenth of a eucalyptus forest. Northern Europe and North American rotation periods for pulpwood go up to 50 years, about 100 years for softwood logs, and up to 200 years for central European broad-leaved trees like beech and oak. While only a small portion of the timber harvest is acquired by clear-cutting a small section of the forest annually, the rest is safeguarded by exploiting the whole forest periodically.
In conclusion, current forestry activities in Canada are not very sustainable. However, they can be made more sustainable so that forests can be used as a natural resource for many years. Although Canada’s large forested area allows for a longer presence of this resource, the forest industry must adapt its economic activities to ensure that it lasts. Sustainable forest management can be practiced to ensure that while trees are cut down to be manufactured into forest products, the areas with felled trees aren’t permanently void of forests. Instead of simply cutting down forests and abandoning the felled areas, trees in forests can be cut down individually or in clusters, and new trees can be planted there to compensate for trees that have been cut down. That way, Canada can benefit economically from its forests, while also sustaining them to last for a long time.