Posted by: Sandra Garland
After a late start in 2021, the Enviro Crew’s Tree Team put in a full summer of tree assessment in 2022 and has now surveyed over 900 trees in our neighbourhood. Seven teams, including over two dozen people, have been doing this work and are eager to continue. We’re aiming to cover at least 25% of Old Ottawa South and we’re halfway there.
Thanks to those dedicated volunteers, we’ve discovered whole forests, hidden in the middle of blocks; American Elms that have not succumbed to Dutch elm disease; butternuts free of canker; a huge hickory tree that hosts “weird insects” according to its owner; and an even bigger Bur Oak that’s over 200 years old. We found much-loved trees – a 55-year-old apple tree holding a treehouse and three youngsters – and not-so-loved trees – a Black Walnut that rains tennis-ball-sized nuts down on the family’s backyard.
Thanks also to the many neighbours we’ve met, who love to talk about their trees. We’ve learned that consulting an arborist leads to healthier trees. We’ve also learned that city trees take quite a beating: they’re susceptible to wind, they get bashed by machinery, they get removed to make room for a bigger house, and, as they age, their owners begin to distrust them.
But where is all this going? What happens to all the information we’ve been collecting about species, size, scars, surrounding space, and dozens of other factors that affect our trees’ health?
Members of the Tree Team feel strongly that trees are an important component of our neighbourhood. They shade us in summer, protect us from cold winds in winter. They hold rainwater and keep our soil in place. They give us oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. They provide food and homes for birds, squirrels, pollinators, butterflies. They increase our property values and contribute to our mental health by reducing anxiety and helping us manage stress.
They even save us money. One resident commented that, as the linden tree in his backyard has grown, his air conditioning bills have shrunk to almost nothing.
Now that we have a substantial amount of data, Dr. Andy Kenney, founder of the Neighbourwoods project, is adding it to his database. From there, we’ll be able to extract big-picture information, such as canopy cover, a species profile, age and general health graphs. If you live on Glen Avenue, you probably think that OOS is full of Lindens. On Southern Drive, the dominant street tree is Silver Maple. Data analysis will give us a more realistic picture of what is growing in OOS and how.
Looking at that data will also give us some clues about the future needs of our urban forest. How does our tree cover compare with the city’s goal of 40%? Can we reach that level and, thus, help the environment? Can we provide information – and even arborist services – to residents to make our trees healthier? Is there enough diversity to withstand future impacts that tend to affect one species more than another? How can we work with the city to reach the goals of the Urban Forest Management Plan?
Some examples of those goals are:
- All of Ottawa’s residents deserve equitable access to the benefits provided by the urban forest
- All trees are valuable and large trees require special consideration
- Increasing diversity builds resilience against climate change and other stressors
The Tree Team will be holding a Neighbourwoods refresher session on May 13, 2023. Watch for a notice in next month’s OSCAR and join us if you are interested in helping survey trees. We also welcome input into a stewardship plan for OOS. How do you visualize our urban forest? What would you like to know more about?
Meanwhile, don’t just hug a tree, water it, make sure broken branches are trimmed away cleanly, don’t crowd or pave over its roots. Trees provide huge benefits to us and to the environment. Let’s keep ours happy and working for us.
Comments or questions? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandy Garland is a long-time resident of Old Ottawa South and a member of the Enviro Crew of OOS.
Featured in the April 2023 OSCAR.