Sustainable Forestry

By: Kayla West, Kalvin Tandazo, and Vlad Ulici

Definition: Balancing environmental, social and economic factors to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

It is a concept that encompasses economy, politics and the environment.

How does Sustainable forestry work?

So why are forests important?

Forests provide us with many resources and processes that enable a clean and healthy environment, such as:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Timber
  • Fuel
  • Access to minerals
  • Purify water
  • Prevent erosion
  • house terrestrial biodiversity
  • withhold carbon from the atmosphere
  • absorb solar radiation

Forestry in Canada

Canada holds 10% of the worlds forest cover, mainly consisting of the Boreal forest.  As a country with a large forest on its doorstep, we have to be proactive in maintain the health of our forests and think about its regenerative ability before we extract resources.

Canada has a forest strategy implemented 20 years ago which recognizes biodiversity, timber, wildlife habitat, water quality and recreational activities.

Canada has high standards when it comes to its forest.

96% is owned by the Government - 8% is protected by national and provincial parks and wildlife reserves.


Many methods are used to manage a forest.  Historically, Aboriginals used fires to clear unwanted vegetation and to allow for the relocation of hoover mammals.  

Fires also occur naturally based on climate and lightening.  

When a fire sweeps through a forest, it destroys much habitat and resources.  But it also allows for new species to get a start on life. For example, the White Pine.  By burning the overhead canopy and removing the leaves on the ground, light can access the forest floor and the roots of the white pine tree can penetrate the soil, dramatically changing the forest structure around it.

Having new species establish after a disturbance such as fire puts in motion natural processes such as natural succession.  Some pine species mitigate the establishment of other species, allowing for the fixation of certain minerals lacking in the soil that other species need in order to grow.

A study conducted by Gleason in 2013, looked at the effects of forest fire on solar radiation in forested areas.  She compared charred lots to unburned forest lots.  The amount of snow fall was observed in both areas as well as the time it took for that snow to melt.  

This image showed the two plots and an aerial representation of the burned and unburned plots.  The scans of the aerial view shows the elevation of the trees, red being no elevation, green being highly elevated.  D represents a lot of exposed ground where C has a high density of elevated surfaces due to the presence of trees.


Logging plays an important role in our management of forests.  If logging remains unchecked it can destroy a lot of valuable resources and habitat.  natural succession is highly disturbed when clear cut logging methods are performed.  It can also deplete many resources from the soil, making it difficult to grow.

Friendly logging practices help us to maintain the ecosystem and the biodiversity of our wildlife.

Some practices include:

Selective cutting: As is suggested, selected species or ages may be chosen to be removed for use, reducing the diversity of the lot and leaving trees poor in health. This allows for the potential colonization of other species such as weedy plants due to the increased amount of light that reaches the forest floor and increased the amount of solar radiation being reflected by the lack of trees. Selective cutting also decreased the microclimate beneath the canopy of the forest.

Shelterwood cutting: this method eliminates undesirable species, allowing light and space for the desirable species to take hold. This is a method that changes the species composition of the forest over time (10+ years). This method could be helpful in altering environments to be more adaptive to future climatic events.

Here is a comparison of the different logging practices that can be seen from aerial view in the photo below.  Some are good for the forest, by aiding in the retention of minerals and maintaining biodiversity and facilitating succession while some are bad.

Forest go through transitions, this is the nature of succession over time.  Time is important to a forest.  Thats why the management of the forest should consult with methods that may take time in order to conserve the health of the forest.

Assessing the Forests Health

A Forests health can be determined by many things.  How do environmentalists determine the  health?  One  method includes using indicator species.

Indicator species are species that enable us to determine whether out harvesting methods are effecting the health of the forest (Lindenmayer, et al, 2000).

Indicator species can come in the form of a guild, species or structure based feature.

Some indicators can include:

  • Endemic species to an area based on location, resource or nutrient availability
  • Dispenser species which enable pollination or dispersal to new locations
  • Absent species from an area where they should be present (may include lichens)
  • Extreme edge species found at the edges of their ranges indicating change in the environment causing them to expand or retract their range
  • Stand complexity, or species heterogeneity including plant species composition and connectivity of landscapes allowing for dispersal and gene flow.

There is a different between keystone species and indicator species.

Lichens are special species because they indicate the health of the air in the area.

Many lichens and mosses can be found in abundance in old growth forests!

Forests maintain microclimates beneath their canopies, creating environments that can support a wide variety of organisms.  Old growth forests are moist and have less air flow, creating optimal environments for organisms like moss and lichens.  

Government and Sustainable Forestry

The Government has policies that companies must follow before they harvest the forest.  Forest management planning is essential.  Sustainable forest license (SFL) in an  agreement between the Government and companies which gives them the right to harvest wood on crown land.

The Natural Resources Canada lists many sources of sustainable forestry including sustainable forest management theories:

Canada has a sustainable forestry act!

Managing Crown forests

The Crown Forest Sustainability Act describes forest sustainability and regulates the protection and sustainable use of Ontario’s forested lands. To achieve sustainable forest management, there is:

  • a comprehensive system of legislation, regulations, policies, standards and guides
  • a forest management planning system
  • a compliance program and independent forest audits to monitor progress
  • public reporting on the status of all aspects of forest management

Ontario’s sustainable forest management practices are based on the most up-to-date science and continuously improved. (Ontario Gov, 2014)

Study on Sustainable Management Frameworks

In a paper, Millar (2007) discusses frameworks for the future of sustainable forestry.

1) Creating resistance to change - Managing ecosystems and resources for better resistance for future situations.

2) Promoting resilience to change - Natural succession allows forests to return to their original state after disturbances. Forestry that allows forests to remain stable and return to the original state is better then drastically changing the environment.

3) Responding to change - Forests better able to respond to environmental changes allow them to become adaptive. We can attain this by equipping forests to deal with species dispersal, migration, population mortality and colonization, species dominance, community composition and disturbance regimes. By encouraging gradual adaption to inevitable change we maintain a forest able to withstand climatic changes and remain sustainable and promote biodiversity.

Some practices that enable us to achieve the above goals include:

  • Assisting transitions of population adjustments, range shifts and other natural adaptions in order to help species overcome ecosystems and climate changes.
  • Increasing redundancy and buffers, introducing species to preferred habitats in new environments rather then their previously noted areas allows for diversity of projected future environments
  • Expanding genetic diversity guidelines, current plans seek to maintain local genetic management, but future genetic diversity should be sought in respect to changing climates. New transfers rules should be developed in order to maintain a wide variety of diversity, incase harmful environments create unsuitable habitats.
  • Managing for asynchrony and use establishment phasing to reset succession, changing climates have repeatedly altered communities, resulting in biota shifts across the landscape. there are opportunities to manage early successional stages after wide spread disturbance has reduced landscape synchrony can be diverted by promoting diverse age classes, species mixes, structural diversity and genetic diversity - resulting in asynchrony.
  • Establish “neo-native” forests, historical climate change and species composition can enlighten us to species responses and ecological tolerances. landscapes that supported these species in the past with similar conditions are considered neb-native species, possible outside of their current range but could potentially arise in the future.
  • Promote connected landscapes, managing migration ranges is key to species adaptation and longterm survival among plants and animals. By maintaining corridors and buffer zones among spread out stands and other forested landscapes we can promote habitat connectivity and reduce fragmentation.
  • Realign significantly disrupted conditions, disturbed forests undergo restoration treatments called re-alignment to restore the forest to its historical pre disturbance condition, but future conditions need to be considered. (Millar et al, 2007)

Politicians for Sustainable Forestry

Bill Mauro

Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry

"We are working to protect Ontario's rich biodiversity for future generations while we continue to promote economic opportunities and outdoor recreation."

3 Remedies

Alice Rivlin offers three remedies that have nothing to do with forests; instead they encourage a better attitude to the kind of thinking that it will take to make changes that move us in the direction of sustainable forestry.

(1) First, we need a revolution in education about public choices (Rivlin 1993). We must find ways of helping people to understand the magnitude of the choices they are making, either indirectly or not.

(2) Second, we need society wide efforts to manage change in positive ways (Rivlin 1993). There would be less resistance to change if we had programs ready to assist both individuals and communities that are victims of change.

(3) Third, neither the transition to sustainable forestry nor the evolution of sustainable futures will be possible without campaign finance reform (Rivlin 1993).


Timber and mining industries impact environmental preservation.

Mining is an important example because of the environmental damages linked with hard-rock mining (Dashwood 2007). The mining industry has caused several cases of polluted water from acid rock drainage, toxic waste from metals processing, air-borne pollution from smelting processes and the massive displacement of forest land in the case of open-pit-mining (Dashwood 2007).

Mining companies must retain forestry certifications in order to mine in forested areas.  But when a mining campaign is done, it should return the landscape to a state in which is can facilitate natural succession as mentioned by Miller (2007).


Deforestation can cause many consequences such as:

  • Drought
  • Desertification
  • Desert expansion
  • Biodiversity loss
  • Animal extinction
  • global climate shifts
  • water shortages
  • increase in armed conflicts

REDD is a program that helps countries re-establish deforested areas, returning the forest to its optimal state and ensuring the processes within a forest are functional.

Climate Change

Forests can drive climate change.  They absorb carbon dioxide to produce oxygen.  When forests are cut down, large about of cobra dioxide is released back into the environment, causing a rise in temperatures and a rise in green house gases.

We need to recognize that the way we live impacts the environment around us.  Once this is acknowledged then we can move forward and combat the problem and become sustainable.

People know they love forests.  Thats why we have so many forest based recreational activities including:

- camping

- cottaging

- biking

- hiking

- hunting

- art

- photography

- science! research!

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