What Are Ecological Goods and Services?

Private forest provide many of the forest-related ecological goods and services in the settled regions of Canada.

The term ecological goods and services (EG&S) refers to the direct economic and cultural benefits provided to humans by ecosystems such as wetlands and watersheds and includes water filtration, flood protection and wildlife habitat.

Defining “ecological goods and services” conveys the important idea that ecosystems are socially valuable and that nature provides important benefits to human welfare, households, communities and economies.

The term is relatively new and supports an evolving understanding of how to most effectively recognize the economic, ecological and social significance of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Private Forests and Ecological Goods and Services

Because private forests provide many of the forest-related ecological goods and services in the settled regions of Canada, it’s in everyone’s best interest to encourage forest owners to keep their forests in production and to recognize the valuable contributions private forests make to the overall quality of life for Canadians.  

Watershed Regulation and Flood Control

Due to their proximity to settled regions, private forests play an essential role in watershed regulation and flood control. Compared to cleared or urban land, a forested watershed has a much greater capacity to absorb water into the soil, re-charge the water table and moderate surface runoff during the heavy rains and melting snows of spring.

Conservation of Water Quality

Forests help to conserve two key aspects of water quality – water temperature and sedimentation. Trees provide shade to keep water cool. Cool water maintains a higher oxygen content than warm water. Insects fall off tree branches beside the watercourse and provide food for fish and other aquatic life. Erosion is the main source of sedimentation. A forested watershed has more moderate runoff patterns and less erosion. Sediment damages the gills of fish and can destroy gravel beds used for spawning. Private forests, in particular, 
make an important contribution to the conservation of aquatic habitat, and to the purity of community water supplies.

moose in a river

Private forests play an important role in providing wildlife habitat and preserving biodiversity.

Wildlife Habitat

With 
the exception of
 densely populated
 areas, Canada has
 maintained the majority 
of original forest cover.
 In urban areas, and 
areas where most of the
 land has been cleared for agriculture, farm woodlots, and other forested lands, provide important wildlife habitats for forest dwelling wildlife: animals, birds and amphibians.

Biodiversity Conservation

Many species of trees, shrubs, ground vegetation, birds, animals, amphibians and insects require a forest ecosystem to thrive. Deforestation, conversion to agriculture and urban sprawl all contribute to the loss of biodiversity. Private forest lands tend to be located in the southern regions of Canada. These areas are more productive and provide habitat for species that are indigenous to these regions. By maintaining their land in forest, private owners make a significant contribution to conserving biodiversity and maintaining thriving forest ecosystems.

 A Reservoir of Forest Carbon

It is widely recognized that forests constitute an important pool of carbon. Trees take carbon out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis and tree growth. This carbon is stored in the 
trees. Green wood, by weight, is about 25% carbon. The national forest carbon reservoir is sustained by keeping forest land in a healthy growing condition. Forest management operations take place without damaging the forest carbon reservoir by ensuring quick regeneration of harvested areas. The majority of harvested carbon is stored in solid wood products; this results in a net carbon uptake.

men fishing

Private forest lands regularly provide outdoor recreation opportunities.

Outdoor Recreation

Forest lands,
 together with lakes and streams, 
provide an excellent resource for outdoor recreation – hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. Due to their proximity to settled areas, private forests are often widely used for recreation.

Landscape Aesthetics

Forested hills and mountains provide the backdrop for Canada’s tourism industry. They also provide enjoyment for all Canadians, both urban and rural. Often, the vistas we enjoy the most are a result of careful management by individual landowners.