By Rob Keen, RPF, CEO – Forests Ontario
Having spent my life surrounded by trees, – 40 years in a professional capacity – I know when our forests are healthy, they provide an impressive range of services and benefits.
While the value of our forest’s ability to sequester carbon and mitigate the effects of climate change is undeniable, trees do so much more. Forests support wildlife and biodiversity, economic development opportunities, benefit human health, supplying ecosystem services such as water and air purification, and contributing to our culture as maple leaf waving Canadians.
Recent news media coverage contends that increases in forest fires and insect infestations are converting our forests into being a carbon source rather than a carbon sink. With more trees equaling more carbon sequestration, healthy, growing, well-managed forests absorb significantly more carbon than they emit. The forests best suited to adapting to climate change and most resilient to natural disturbances are large, contiguous, diverse, and healthy. Forests like this are better equipped to mitigate and adapt to climate change effects. Planting more trees make sense.
Trees do amazing things even when no longer in the ground. Using wood from our managed forests can lock up sequestered carbon well beyond the natural life span of a tree. Consider, that your wood framed house stores the amount of carbon emitted by running a family car for five years; consider that 30,000 homes like this are built in just Ontario each year.
There is a growing need for more forests, especially on fragmented landscapes in some parts of southern Ontario. Science says, 50% forest cover (at the watershed level) is the threshold required to support healthy aquatic systems and the species. In some areas of southwest Ontario, forest cover has fallen as low as 5%. To reach even 30% forest cover, best estimates indicate at least one billion new trees are needed, and this means planting.
Ontarians should be proud of our world-class forest management practices and tree planting initiatives, such as the 50 Million Tree Program that provides landowners with low-cost and technical help that is creating Ontario forests of tomorrow.
For all these reasons, you can see why I think Ontario needs more trees. We also need a conversation about advancing a national tree planting strategy, join this conversation by following @ItTakesAForest.