Help Trees, Help You!
Planting trees isn’t just doing something good for the environment; it is doing something good for your community, and for yourself.
Trees provide a host of essential watershed services, from water filtration, to erosion prevention, to flood control. They help us to do our job here at the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority (CRCA), as we seek to manage and maintain the health and integrity of our watersheds. We all know that Ontario has experienced some wacky weather this past year, and the damage caused by ice storms and floods are troubling reminders that our communities are vulnerable to the unpredictable whims of nature. As our climate changes and our population increases, the importance of these watershed services will only increase. Recently, Ontario communities have started to realize that by bringing nature back into their communities, they can safeguard them from future storms, while reducing their carbon footprint, and increasing their quality of life. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
So, just how can trees improve your community?
Trees help us to manage climate change and keep the air in our community clean. Did you know that trees can actually moderate local and regional climates? Trees can cool your neighborhood in the summer by shading our homes and streets, and by releasing water vapor into the air through the leaves. Trees can also impact the global climate by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a harmful greenhouse gas responsible for our planets changing climate, and releasing clean oxygen in exchange.
Trees contribute to flood control. Trees play a huge role in enhancing the earth’s capacity to absorb and store water. As rain falls or snow melts, the water collects on the earth’s surface and eventually flows into a larger water body as surface runoff. If these water bodies are not big enough to absorb the increased flows during heavy rainfall events, flooding occurs. You can imagine trees as puncturing holes in the earth’s surface, allowing rain to infiltrate into the ground rather than running along the earth’s surface and overwhelming our lakes and rivers. The leaves and branches of the tree will also catch much of the rainwater directly as it falls, allowing it to evaporate before even reaching the ground. In urban areas with few trees and lots of pavement, water is not absorbed and instead travels along the earth’s surface as storm-water runoff, collecting harmful chemicals such as gasoline and road salt, and washing them into receiving water bodies.
Trees help to keep our soil healthy and productive. Soil erosion reduces levels of nutrients needed for other plants to thrive, decreases the soils capacity to absorb and store water, and decreases the diversity and abundance of bacteria and organisms within that soil. When trees are present, their root systems will hold the soil in place, protecting it against wind and other disturbances, and preventing erosion. The leaves and branches of trees will also intercept wind and rain and reduce the impact on the soil below. Farmers frequently use this method of soil erosion prevention, planting trees along crop fields to reduce the impact of wind and rain on bare fields.
Trees help us to maintain and increase native biodiversity. Increasing the amount of trees in our community will improve the well-being of its residents – especially the birds and the bees! Trees provide wildlife habitat to a variety of North American species, including many threatened or endangered species. They also offer habitat protection from the sun and wind, which is especially beneficial for species living in ponds, rivers and other aquatic habitats that need to keep cool in the summer heat. Trees can also be a great source of food. While living, flowers, fruits, leaves, buds and even the woody part of trees are consumed by many different species. When a tree dies, it becomes a feast of nutrient rich organic matter for fungi, bacteria, and other small organisms to consume.
Trees are good for your soul… and for your wallet. Did you know that being outside in nature has been shown to reduce stress, anger, and depression, and increase creativity, curiosity and problem-solving abilities? Studies have shown that hospital patients with views of trees out their windows heal faster and with fewer complications, and that employees with a view of nature from their desk are more productive and take fewer days off work. Having trees on your property can also reduce your electricity bill by providing shade in the summer and wind protection in the winter. Having trees on your property can even increase your properties value, because that land is more protected against flooding and erosion, it supports wildlife such as birds, bees, and butterflies, and it contributes to the esthetic value of the property.
Still not convinced of the super powers of a single tree? Just try to imagine how many people and machines it would take to do the work of one tree for a year… all that pollution sequestration, oxygen production, nutrient cycling, water storage and filtration, air conditioning, etc. Trees are handy little multi-taskers to have around, aren’t they?
This year CRCA will lead TD Tree Days events – Memorial Park in Brockville (September 13) and Lemoine Point Conservation Area (October 4). We'll be working with Friends of Lemoine Point, The Friends of Mac Johnson Wildlife Area to plant a total of 450 trees in an effort to enhance the existing forests.
Lemoine Point Conservation Area will benefit greatly from the plantings, as it is the last large publicly accessible tract of wooded Lake Ontario shoreline in the region - almost 2500 meters of shoreline! The existing forest at Lemoine Point is of great importance to preserve both as a recreational and a natural area, and all cultures, ages, and genders have an important role to play in the planting.
150 trees are being selected and sorted at the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area tree nursery for the Brockville planting along Buell’s Creek. The trees planted will be predominantly conifers to deter possible damage caused by beavers that sometimes visit the area. The site along Buell’s Creek was selected because planting in this area will provide habitat, riverbank stabilization, and offer shade over the creek which in turn reduces summer time water temperatures subsequently increasing species diversity.
TD Tree Days are a great opportunity for high school students to learn about forest stewardship, while earning some community service hours in the process! Help us to address the many challenges that we face in managing the natural resources of our watershed, and join us in enhancing the last piece of wooded Lake Ontario shoreline in the region. Let’s work together to help trees help us!