FOREST ECOSYSTEMS: Multiple
Canada is richly endowed with naturally established
forests. These ecosystems are marvellously diverse complexes of plants, animals, soil,
water and air. Our forests are the product of millennia of evolution. While they host the
same basic life forms as forests throughout the world, Canada's forests bring together
species and ecosystems distinct to our country. This diversity ensures their ability to
adapt and survive. Forest ecosystems and the life they support have an intrinsic value
that underpins their social, cultural and economic importance.
Sustainable forest management means following ecologically sound
practices that maintain the forest ecosystems' integrity, productivity, resilience and
biodiversity. That involves sustaining a wide range of ecological processes through which
plants, animals, micro-organisms, soil, water and air interact. As a result of these
processes, forests provide a number of functions essential to life on this planet. For
example, they maintain the chemical balance of soil, air and water, stabilize the climate,
recycle nutrients, break down pollutants, clean the air and water, and are vital to
watershed protection, soil formation, carbon storage and the habitat for wildlife. The
products of forest growth may be harvested on a sustainable basis, and even enhanced
through silvicultural practices, as long as the forests' inherent biological limits are
The natural resilience of forest ecosystems is reflected in their
capacity for renewal. Fire, insect damage, disease, windstorms and age cause all trees to
die eventually, but also create new conditions for forest species that thrive in more open
conditions. This resilience needs to be maintained so that forest ecosystems can adapt to
global disruptions such as extended cycles of climatic change, as well as atmospheric
pollution and changes in land use and vegetation cover. Forests must be managed in ways
that let them recover after disturbances and extended changes. This is a key element of
sustainable forest management.
Canadians recognize the importance of biodiversity --
specifically, the term includes the variety of different species, the genetic variability
of each species and the variety of different ecosystems to which they belong. Conserving
such a diverse and rich array of plant and animal communities in Canada's forests requires
management strategies and practices to maintain the health and diversity of whole forest
landscapes. As well, specific areas warrant particular protection because of their unique
ecological features and other values. In Canada, we have a special attachment to old
forests for their aesthetic and ecological values. Representative landscapes may be
maintained through designation as protected areas, while in other cases management on
longer rotations helps to retain their features.
There are many kinds of protected areas in Canada. The World
Conservation Union's widely accepted framework for the classification of protected areas
contains five categories with increasing degrees of human intervention permitted:
scientific reserves and wilderness areas, parks, natural monuments, habitat and wildlife management
areas, and protected landscapes. According to the Canadian Conservation Areas Database, in
1995 approximately 7.6 percent of Canada's forest land was located in protected areas,
mostly in parks.
Ecosystem-based forest management is the integrated management of
natural landscapes and watersheds, ecological processes, wildlife species and human
activities. This approach needs cooperation on a regional level to ensure that forests
contribute to Canadians' environmental, economic, social and cultural aspirations.
Ecosystem-based forest management requires better knowledge and
information about characteristics of the forest that go beyond conventional timber-based
inventories. We need to understand through research and development how forest ecosystems
respond to natural disturbances and human activities. We also need, through dialogue and
planning, to define our objectives clearly and monitor our performance. In 1995, the
Canadian Council of Forest Ministers released Defining Sustainable Forest Management: A
Canadian Approach to Criteria and Indicators, to help guide and assess our progress in
applying the ecosystem approach and achieving sustainable forest management. The first Criteria
and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management in Canada: Technical Report on data
availability and reporting capacity was published
in 1997, with the companion implementation plan to produce a first comprehensive report by
the year 2000. These documents are referred to here as the Canadian C&I framework. A
similar initiative, undertaken in collaboration with countries having the majority of the
world's temperate and boreal forests has produced the Criteria and Indicators for the
Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests, referred to
as the Montreal Process C&I.
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Healthy forest ecosystems are essential to maintain the
quality of life.
The sustainable use and management of forest ecosystems must
maintain their essential ecological processes, biological diversity, productivity,
resilience and capacity for renewal.
Comprehensive, accurate inventories that include information
on key forest values are essential for sustainable forest management.
Forest use and management must maintain the diversity of
plants and animals, ecosystems, and landscapes.
Sustainable use and management of Canada's forests must
respect their role in maintaining local and global ecosystems.
Framework for Action
We will improve our understanding of forest ecological functions
and their response to natural disturbances and human activity, and we will enhance our
ability to manage forests in a way that will maintain the productivity and resilience of
1.1 By broadening the scope of
inventories and information on key forest and landscape characteristics, including the
impact of natural processes and human activities on forest ecosystems, non-timber features
and growth and yield of forest resources. Such information is needed to manage the forest
sustainably for a wide range of values, to forecast changes in the forest and to meet
Canada's international reporting commitments.
1.2 By gathering the data on the state of
Canada's forest ecosystems needed to enable Canada to report fully and regularly on the
criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management as outlined in the CCFM and
Montreal Process frameworks.
1.3 By completing ecological
classifications of forest lands that are operationally functional at the regional level,
with emphasis placed on lands under active forest management, and, based on these,
completing a national classification of forest ecosystems.
1.4 By giving priority to basic and
applied research on forest ecosystems, including their response to natural disturbances
and to human activities, and their role in the cycling of greenhouse gases, within
adaptive and mitigative management strategies.
We will enhance our capacity to ensure that our forest management
activities maintain the biological diversity of our forests:
1.5 By improving the system for reporting
nationally on the state of forest biodiversity in Canada, using the CCFM and Montreal
Process frameworks of criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management.
1.6 By working toward completing, by the
year 2000, a network of protected areas representative of Canada's forest ecosystem
classification categories, to provide ecological benchmarks, protect areas of unique
biological value and manage for the continuation of old-growth forest landscapes as
1.7 By incorporating precautionary
approaches to maintaining biodiversity, with specific objectives and indicators, into
forest management plans.