Toronto: An urban forest in crisis

Toronto’s urban forest is in trouble. Climate change is set to have a major impact and planners must scramble to temper the fast growth of invasive species.

As the city tries to expand its canopy, mistakes from the past are showing why tree choice and smart planning matter for the coming years.

Cities are already a hostile place for trees to grow. The “heat island” effect creates a climate too warm for comfort, salt from the winter is damaging, the soil is suffering from nutrient degradation and root systems often go into shock.

Finding trees that are resilient is a priority for Toronto. Already accustomed to the ecosystem and climate, native species often possess the hardiness required to endure the urban environment.

“This is why we’re developing species diversity. Native trees will generally have the strongest ability to survive because they’re unique to that area,” says Jason Doyle, Toronto’s director of urban forestry. “But things are starting to change.”

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