State of the Urban Forest – Landmark Report

Key Report Findings

The urban forest is vital green infrastructure
  • Currently there is a great focus on investing in grey infrastructure – roads, buildings, sewer pipes, etc.
  • Living green infrastructure, such as urban forests, provides countless benefits that cannot be replaced by grey infrastructure. It is a system that includes all natural vegetative systems and green technologies such as green roofs, parks, gardens, wetlands, urban farms, bioswales, and porous pavements.
  • Municipalities recognize and are now measuring their green infrastructure assets and the multitude of benefits they provide. For example, the GTA urban forest:
    • improves air quality ($36.5 million annually)
    • sequesters carbon (value of carbon currently stored is $70 million)
    • saves energy through shade and cooling ($20 million annually)
  • Urban forests are key in helping communities adapt to climate change by mitigating stormwater runoff and reducing the urban heat island effect.
We face a growing crisis
  • Rapid urban development and infill, invasive pests and violent storm events are wreaking havoc on our urban forests.
  • Only 4 species make up 54% of the population (Maple, Cedar, Ash, and Buckthorn), leaving the urban forest vulnerable to pest/disease.
  • 3.2 million ash trees are expected to die as a result of Emerald Ash Borer (10% of the population).
  • More frequent, violent storms have resulted in massive tree loss in many municipalities.
  • Municipalities are in “crisis mode” post insect/storm devastation, which quickly eats up
    limited resources for proactive urban forest management.
  • Climate change will only exacerbate the crisis – more invasive pests and more violent weather events.
Urban forests need support from higher levels of government
  • Most municipalities do not have adequate resources to proactively manage their urban forest assets.
  • Currently there is no coordination, research, funding or best practice support from higher levels of government – each municipality is left to fend for its own piece of the urban forest.
  • Provincial and federal governments must help build the capacity of local and regional governments, non-profit organizations and the private sector to prepare and protect our urban forest.
  • Infrastructure investments must include living green infrastructure such as urban forests.
The Highway of Heroes Living Tribute is planting 117,000 trees along North America’s busiest transportation corridor. These trees ensure that campaign supporters are playing an active role in supporting the urban forest. We’re planting large numbers of various native Maple species under the direction and guidance of our partners at Maple Leaves Forever.
The experts at Forests Ontario guide the plantings along the actual right-of-way, ensuring that the unique conditions of the highway are accounted for in terms of planting conditions and the requirements of the Ministry of Transportation.
A special thanks to the Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition for their continued efforts to raise awareness of the necessity to think green when considering our infrastructure.

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