Toronto's Urban Forest Increasingly Stressed

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A report published by the Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition entitled “The State of the Urban Forest in the Greater Toronto Area” concludes that the area’s urban forests are increasingly stressed and that governments must invest in “living, green infrastructure” in order to protect this vital asset. The report cites the benefits delivered by urban forests, such as increased air quality and reduced temperatures. The report estimates that trees in the Greater Toronto Area improve air quality to the tune of $36.5 million annually, and provide enough shade and cooling to offset $20 million dollars of energy costs.

Urban forests, however, are increasingly threatened. Urban development removes soil volume, restricts growing space, and alters the flow of water. Moreover, 54% of the Greater Toronto Area’s tree population is composed of just four species – maple, cedar, ash, and buckthorn – making it particularly vulnerable to pests and disease.

The report calls for the recognition and valuation of the benefits derived from urban forests and the need for governments to maintain green infrastructure in the same way that they maintain grey infrastructure. The Coalition identifies four priorities for protecting urban forests: "championing policies and practices that help more tree grows to maturity in more locations, sustaining investment and supporting proactive management, developing community engagement programs that empower residents, and encouraging applied research and monitoring that provides the information needed to respond to new and existing threats."

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