Oakville’s tree canopy reaches new heights

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Oakville’s tree canopy reaches new heights

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Gisele Shaw

Gisele Shaw

Gisele Shaw is the Manager of Corporate Communication for the town of Oakville since 2002. Prior to working for the town she worked for Halton Region as a communications specialist. She is a graduate of Humber College.

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Even in the face of ice storms, urban development and the impact of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), Oakville has increased its tree canopy by 1.3 per cent since 2005, a new study has revealed.

The findings are a result of an i-Tree survey conducted for the town in 2015 to measure Oakville’s tree canopy and compare it to a 2005 study. The results, published this fall, indicate that Oakville’s urban forest now contains over two million trees, compared to 1.9 million in 2005, and has an overall canopy cover of 27.8 per cent, up from 26.5 per cent in 2005.

“The tremendous economic, environmental and health benefits that a thriving tree canopy brings to a community are critical to overall livability,” said Mayor Rob Burton. “Since 2005 we have strengthened our private tree protection by-law, adopted a comprehensive zoning by-law, and implemented an EAB management program to help us achieve our 40 per cent canopy coverage goal. It is gratifying to see all those measures resulting in real progress.”

In 2005, Oakville was one of a number of Canadian municipalities to complete an Urban Forest Effect Model (UFORE) study, now known as i-Tree, to quantify the structure of the urban forest. In 2015, Oakville became the first municipality in Canada to conduct a ten-year follow-up survey to track the changes to the urban forest since the initial study. The results of the 2015 survey have been published in the report, Growing Livability – A Comprehensive Study of Oakville’s Urban Forest.

Highlights of the report include:

  1. Oakville’s urban forest canopy cover in 2015: 27.8 per cent
  2. Total number of trees: 2,016,500
  3. The structural value of Oakville’s urban forest is $1.04 billion.
  4. Oakville’s tree canopy is estimated to provide $2.93 million in environmental benefits each year.
  5. The total value of home energy savings provided by Oakville’s trees is approximately $1.8 million per year.
  6. Oakville’s urban forest removed 113 tonnes of pollutants and 7,586 tonnes of carbon dioxide from Oakville’s air in 2015.
  7. Oakville’s top three species by leaf area are Sugar maple, Norway maple and Northern red oak.

“The i-Tree report provides key recommendations for strengthening and enhancing our urban forest. These recommendations will help inform the town’s Urban Forest Strategic Management Plan which is being updated in 2017 in conjunction with the Biodiversity Strategy,” said Chris Mark, director, Parks and Open Space.

Residents can be particularly influential in determining the health and growth of Oakville’s urban forest. With support from the community and environmental groups such as Oakvillegreen and Conservation Halton, the town has planted 167,000 trees in the last ten years. Still there is room to grow. While Oakville’s streets have reached near tree-planting capacity, as much as 50 per cent of Oakville’s public, residential and commercial land is available for planting more trees, the report states.

To find out how to get involved in community tree-planting events, contact Oakvillegreen at oakvillegreen.org.

The town has an on-line inventory of all town-owned street and park trees. To review the tree inventory, visit the map page at oakville.ca and select the Forestry map. To review the i-Tree report, visit oakville.ca and search “trees and woodlands.”

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