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Toronto’s tree canopy could use your help

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Yes, it is Toronto. But same same things can apply to Virginia…

Good article.

Toronto’s tree canopy could use your help

Toronto’s tree canopy could use your help

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Sarah B. Hood, National Post
Thursday, Apr. 26, 2012

In 2007, a small, rather pretty green bug called the Emerald Ash Borer was discovered in Toronto. The EAB, a very successful Asian native, likes to feed on the bark of ash trees; the City of Toronto estimates that, by 2017, all of Toronto’s 860,000 ash trees may well be dead.

This is not the first catastrophic event for the city’s trees. Through the 1970s and ’80s, about 80% of our elms fell victim to Dutch Elm Disease. Oaks in High Park have been dying off, and black walnuts are facing the arrival of Thousand Cankers Disease from the U.S. Changing weather patterns make other threats increasingly likely, such as droughts, high winds and ice storms.

Since 2005, the city has been working towards increasing Toronto’s tree canopy coverage from about 20% to about 40% over the next 50 years — and not just because trees are pretty to look at. The city estimates our tree canopy offers about $60-million in annual savings due to ecological factors such as reduced emissions and cooling costs. They also store 1.1 million metric tonnes of carbon, intercept 1,430 metric tonnes of air pollutants annually and absorb stormwater runoff.

But a 2010 city study called Every Tree Counts projects that 2.7 million more people will live in the GTA by 2031; this healthy growth is bound to compete with the needs of mature city trees, each of which requires as much as 500 square metres of root space.

Toronto’s trees need help — especially the large, mature ones that are most ecologically valuable. The next four months, as they leaf out and face the summer’s heat, are the time to act.

Fortunately, our trees have many defenders — from the official City Urban Forestry office to the numberless citizens who’ve braved cold, rain and mud to plant trees in parks and ravines. The organization Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF) runs public education programs and supports backyard tree planting. And celebrity gardener Mark Cullen is working with a new coalition called Trees for Life, which organizes projects such as schoolyard tree-plantings.

There have been victories, too. We seem to be winning the battle against the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, which attacks numerous species from maple to mountain ash. And, “81% of our tree canopy is in excellent to good condition,” says Jason Doyle, Toronto’s director of Urban Forestry and city forester. “We have 116 different species in Toronto, and when you combine that with the rating, that’s pretty successful.”

“Soil protection is the next big frontier,” says Todd Irvine, a consulting arborist. “If only we had the same appreciation for soil that we have for trees; every day [when excavating for construction or utility maintenance] we’re taking out good soil and replacing it with gravel slurry.”

“Soil is just so key,” agrees LEAF executive director Janet McKay. “Especially in new developments, they remove the topsoil and compact the subsoil; usually only about two inches of topsoil go back. It’s extremely challenging to grow anything, and very unlikely [to grow] large native majestic trees because of the limitations they face with that poor growing medium.”

There are many ways to help protect city trees. Simply planting a new tree or caring for an existing one is a big step. There are public events, too. On April 28, the city hosts its volunteer planting event, Trees Across Toronto, at Milliken Park (McCowan and Steeles) and Windfields Park (Bayview and York Mills). LEAF will lead a free tree tour of the Leslie Spit on May 12, and offer a course at Northern District Library for people who want to learn to care for trees from May 29 to June 5.

The City itself is treating several thousand ash trees on public property to protect them against the Emerald Ash Borer; residents and businesses can do the same, at a cost of about $200 to $400 per tree every two years (removing a dead tree may run $1,500 to $3,000).

“Overall, we’re a city that cares and is conscious,” Irvine says. “We have to keep an eye on our resources; the only thing that’s limiting us is our imagination.”

Posted in: Posted Toronto Tags: Post Toronto, Toronto, Tree Canopy


Written by vaphc

April 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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