Plant trees, the right ones and do it now

Despite being the middle of winter, trees have been on the minds of many of late.

The City has set a goal of 40% for our tree canopy by 2020. With the support of TD Green Streets, the City has established an accurate baseline for our tree canopy.  It currently stands at 20%. This is a larger gap than we anticipated. However, an aggressive target is indicated.

We know trees provide many services to our community from lowering urban air temperatures and ozone levels to creating safer walking environments by reducing traffic speeds and road rage.

As humans, we are hard-wired to respond positively to trees.  The presence of trees have been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve overall emotional and psychological health.  In a Chicago study, “girls who lived in apartments with greener, more natural views scored better on tests of self-discipline than those living in more barren and otherwise identical housing”.

In a previous post, I wrote about the connection between the health of the local economy and how attached people feel towards their community.  One of the key drivers of attachment is the aesthetics of the community – the natural and created beauty of the place.  The urban forest is fundamental to the aesthetics of any community.  Plant a tree, grow the economy.

We also know that trees are under stress – from invasive species, like the Emerald Ash Borer which has arrived in Guelph, and climate change.  Not all our tree species are equal in being able to cope with a warming environment.

Last week, Thomas Homer-Dixon from the Perimeter Institute urged a room full of municipal leaders to start planting trees, not just any trees but the right ones (those that will adapt more successfully to a warming climate) and to start now.

The City of Guelph’s Urban Forest Management Plan moves forward this spring. As we develop the plan we need to think about canopy coverage and the diversity and resiliency of our urban trees.  We need to think about planting trees and maintaining the existing forest – the canopy of a mature tree cannot be replaced for decades. While there are many policies in place to protect existing trees, there will be pressure from new development, especially as we work to accommodate growth within our current city boundaries over the next 20 years.  All of this needs to be factored into a plan that will leave a sustainable legacy for future generations.

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About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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9 Comments on “Plant trees, the right ones and do it now”

  1. Bob feller Says:

    Well they shouldn’t have cut down 800 + on Maltby Rd. in one giant swoop. You know who fells more trees than anyone in Guelph? If you guessed the City of Guelph you’d be right.

  2. rjordan@uoguelph.ca Says:

    Great post Karen! I’ll just add the following link if I may which adds to your comments.

    http://www.treesontario.ca/news/index.php/health_publication_launch

  3. Dave Sills Says:

    Agreed, great post, but the new urban forest management plan needs to be implemented yesterday. We can’t wait for 2013 to begin. You also said that you thought the target may need to be amended to be more realistic. Any idea what that new goal might be?

  4. Cynthia Says:

    I’m surprised that Guelph hasn’t implemented a residential property tree plan/bylaw etc. I live on Callander and in the 2 years that I have lived here, over 7 trees on adjacent properties or properties directly across the street from me have been cut down and all of them were healthy, mature, deciduous trees. In Toronto, where we lived for over a decade, you had to apply for a permit to cut down trees of most sizes. It’s really exciting to hear about plans to increase forest canopy but sad that nothing is being done to protect trees that already exist and are beneficial.

  5. kfarbridge Says:

    We do have a tree by-law although different from Toronto.

    http://guelph.ca/living.cfm?itemid=78938&smocid=1970

  6. Sean Says:

    Too bad the trees beside the new 18 storey condo are going to be cut down. They are very mature and nice….I think we need to have staff look at Toronto’s bylaw because ours lacks punch.

  7. Julie Says:

    For every new developement there should be a tree planting clause/ attachment… other cities les “green” than Guelph have done it. Unfortunately it makes us look like green hypoctites that we dont.

  8. Cynthia Says:

    Thanks for the reply re the tree bylaw here in Guelph. It’d be interesting to know how many properties here in Guelph are equal or less than 0.2ha and are therefore responsible for their own trees and how much of the tree canopy that presently accounts for. I would hazard a guess that close to the majority of the trees Guelph presently has are on small private properties with no bylaw really overseeing them and therefore not really protected. I would love to find out that I’m wrong though.

  9. turningthecurve Says:

    Do a better job of protecting young parkland trees.

    Planting the tree is the easy part. It’s not an insignificant investment to plant one, over time, notwithstanding the significant benefits that go with having healthy, mature trees. When I look at the younger trees in my neighbourhood (in our park especially), I’m often disappointed to see they’ve already been damaged. It seems as though we can’t get ahead. I’m guessing that with better protection at the time of planting, and it has to be at the time of planting and not a week, a month later, we’ll have healthier trees that will be less problematic over time, which also helps with our budgeting.

    I would also suggest that the tree cover in my nighbourhood, and expecially in Exhibition Park is deceiving. We have trees that imho should be removed. Which is to say, we need to realistic expectations and eben, more respectful about the life and decline of trees and so it’s also, hurry up and cut some down.

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