“If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?” My friend was, of course, being facetious. Whenever I see a well-aged, previously majestic and indestructible-looking giant broken and defeated, I find it a sad sight indeed.
Fallen trees leave gaps in our daily lives in many ways. Gone is the curb appeal of a beautiful residential tree, gone the cool shade it provides on hot summer days, and gone is the nesting and resting place for many bird and animal species.
On the May 4-5 weekend, citywide Jane’s Walks took place including a Ward 32 tree walk with the knowledgeable and experienced arborist Todd Irvine. Around 50 tree-lovers came to hear about tree preservation and protection.
The backyard of Art Hall’s home, backing onto Glen Stewart Ravine, was our first major stop. When Art had a deck built, he went above and beyond to protect three mature red oak and three giant spruce trees located right beside his 1930s house. Construction was subject to the strict Ravine Protection By-law, resulting in a deck raised above the tree roots on helical piles drilled 8.5 metres down.
Further along, we stopped at an impressive ash tree on Pine Crescent. It is huge, and it is doomed. The pesky Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has already infected the tree and once it dies – usually within two or three years of infection – it won’t be long before it becomes a hazard and either falls or is removed. The EAB is a non-native, very destructive wood-boring beetle that feeds underneath tree bark. Toronto is expected to lose most of its 860,000 ash trees to it by 2017.
Preventative injections of TreeAzin, a biological insecticide, are available but cost from $300-500 every two years. Only some city-owned trees have been deemed locally significant. The tree outside the Beaches Library with the bench around it is one of the lucky ones.
Not everyone can afford expensive ash tree injections. Yet, there is plenty we can do:
• Protect trees during construction. Follow or exceed City guidelines by installing a tree protection zone.
• Water your trees. Residential tree roots are often paved over by driveways, sidewalks and the street, and they have little surface area from which to draw water. Young trees need at least 20 litres of water per week and mature trees need a weekly 20-30 minute soaking.
• Request a free front yard tree. Urban Forestry provides free residential trees to replace existing or future gaps in the street tree canopy. Phone 311 or visit toronto.ca.
• Get a subsidized back yard tree from LEAF, 416-413-9244 or yourleaf.org.
• Adopt a tree. Pick one on public land, and water it weekly during dry summer spells, or join an established ‘friends of’ park group. Woodbine Park has a friends group, as well as an adopt-a-tree program. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. For trees along the lakeshore, contact email@example.com or find your nearest park group at parkpeople.ca.
One mature tree can provide summer cooling equivalent to ten air-conditioners, filter 27 kg of air pollutants and absorb more than 2,800 litres of storm water.
Stuart Slessor, Parks Supervisor Eastern Beaches and Toronto Waterfront, assured me that “I don’t see a trend in mature trees dying off. The trees we lose after heavy windstorms are usually soft trees, like willows and ashes, which have a shorter life span.”
What Slessor has noticed is Carolinian tree species, like beech, birch, hickory and aspen, dying from pollution, acidity, extreme storms and human demands. The EAB invasion is a problem, Slessor says, especially around Ashbridge’s Bay. Nevertheless, “Forestry is doing their due diligence to replace Ash trees. We’re actually increasing the number of trees through hundreds of additional plantings every year.”
Going back to my introductory comment, when a tree falls around here it does indeed make a sound – the collective gasp at seeing one of “our” green giants fallen.
Martina Rowley is a local environmental communicator.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 647-208-1810.