Ecosystem Services Provided by Canadian Forests

Although Canada is home to ten percent of the world's forests, in some areas the original vegetation is disappearing more rapidly than in Haiti or Indonesia, the countries usually referred to in this context. More attention is now being focused on the value of the natural capital.

Deforestation is a global problem. The disappearance of (natural) forests means the world is losing a wealth of biodiversity and natural capital. Until recently, the value of these services has seldom been calculated and communicated. As a result the important ecological services that forests provide are often not included in decision-making.

Canadian research
Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) is a private nature conservation organisation. With help from the Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD Bank Group) under the TD Forests programme, NCC has conserved forested habitats – a total of more than 40,000 acres (16,000 hectares) in 25 projects across Canada since 2012. NCC is not only working practically on preserving and restoring nature reserves, but is also performing applied research. Together with the TD Bank, NCC researched the way in which ecosystem services dealt with Canadian forests.

Structure of the research
The research findings were published in March this year. The report consists of two main parts:
1. The first part provides general background on Canada's forests and approaches to natural capital valuation.
2. The second part presents eleven case studies, spread across Canada's eight forest regions. These regions are distinct in their dominant tree species, wildlife, land use and conservation needs. Each case study provides an introduction to the forest region and explores the natural capital value of at least one conserved forest property.

General conclusion
Approximately half the natural capital values of forests are related to carbon sequestration and storage in both trees and soils. The other half of the natural capital values are driven by ecological services related to air purification, water quality and water storage. The forests produce oxygen, filter the air we breathe, hold flood waters, clean our drinking water, regulate our climate and absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. This natural capital has a direct link to human health in local communities, and contributes to green infrastructure that supports well-being and economic prosperity.

Case studies
The natural capital values of Canada's forests vary across the country, depending on location, habitat types and landscape context. The case studies calculated them to be within a range of C$5,800 to C$46,000 per hectare per year. In other words, these are the costs for society of replacing these ecosystems services.

More information
The report entitled ‘Value of the Ecosystem Services Provided by Canadian Forests: Case Studies on Natural Capital and Conservation' can be read and downloaded from the NCC website.