"Time spent among trees is never waste" - Katrina Mayer
Toronto's canopy cover - the proportion of land area covered by tree crowns, as viewed from air - is 28% or the equivalent of 10 million trees
There are 116 tree species in Toronto, but 10 common species account for nearly 60% of the population
There is a 40/60 split in ownership, with 40% of trees owned by the City, and the remaining 60% found on private property
The structural value of Toronto's urban forest is $7 billion
Toronto's urban forest provides close to $30 million in ecological services each year
Toronto has a plan to grow its urban canopy from 28% to 40% by 2060. But at a time when development in the City is booming, and space on public lands is limited, how do we get there?
The city’s solution is: by inspiring private property owners - residential, industrial, commercial and institutional alike - to plant and maintain their own trees.
That’s were Toronto’s Tree Planting Strategy comes in. Focusing on trees located on private lands, the Strategy will clearly define an action plan to:
However, it’s not as simple as just planting trees. In order to achieve the target, it is also vital to protect the city’s existing urban forest.
Toronto’s Tree Planting Strategy was initiated as a result of the city’s overarching Strategic Forest Management Plan (2013) – a Plan which establishes the long term vision for the City’s urban forest. The Plan states that one of the fundamental aspects of sustaining and increasing tree canopy is protecting the existing urban forest. Therefore, the City’s Tree Planting Strategy must ensure that the urban forest is not compromised by growth - a tall order, considering the number of people who live, work, and play within the City limits continues to grow.
As Toronto’s built form intensifies to accommodate this population growth, threats to existing and newly planted trees will increase and intensify, particularly on privately owned land. Habitat loss, reduced soil quality and quantity, and reduced growth area are some of the most pressing threats.
So how does the Tree Planting Strategy plan to address these threats? By establishing new programs and tools that better serve and educate private landowners and developers. For example, the City will provide tree planting and maintenance services and support, as well as advice on appropriate species selection based on site and sensitivity constraints. They will also continue to enforce tree protection and environmental by-laws.
The urban forest has a whole range of benefits. For one, it makes Toronto’s neighborhoods more livable.
The urban forest is also a huge contributor to energy conservation and reduces heating and cooling of residential buildings by $10.2 million annually. It helps improve the City’s air quality, storing 1 million tonnes of carbon, which amounts to the yearly emissions of 733,000 cars.
In addition to the $7 billion in value the urban forest brings to Toronto, it also provides more than $28 million in environmental benefits each year.
Other functional benefits include pedestrian security, noise and smell abatement, glare control, wind control, urban design enhancements, water quality improvements, wildlife habitat, soil quality improvement, public health benefits, economic contributions and social benefits. These benefits will only get bigger as the canopy grows.
After extensive stakeholder consultation, Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department is now in the process of finalizing Toronto’s first Tree Planting Strategy (to take effect in early 2016). While the formal consultation for the Strategy has already taken place, you can still share your thoughts with the City by tweeting @TorontoPFR. Include the hashtag #ProjectYU to spread the word, and keep the conversation going.
Katie Ashbourne works in city planning. She holds a Master in Resource and Environmental Management from Dalhousie University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph. Her interests include place-making, public realm, and the relationship between cities and sustainability.