Deciduous or evergreen? That’s the question Sandy Hill homeowners will soon be able to ask themselves, as Ecology Ottawa ramps up its 2021 campaign to distribute 15,000 free tree seedlings to property owners across the city.
Dozens of tree giveaways are being scheduled, including one co-hosted by the Conservation Co-op on Mann Avenue later this month.
Urban trees provide many well-documented benefits, ranging from increasing property values, to capturing stormwater, to providing a noise barrier, as well as cooling and shading.
Robb Barnes, Ecology Ottawa’s Executive Director, says, “They’re a vital tool for climate change adaptation.” Large mature trees, in particular, are good at absorbing atmospheric carbon and filtering air pollutants. They also protect against UV exposure, and alleviate the “heat island effect” that anyone pounding the sidewalk on a hot summer day will be familiar with. Those are problems we’re likely to see more of with climate change, according to Ottawa’s 20-year urban forest management plan.
The emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle, has already destroyed tens of thousands of Ottawa’s ash trees. Development is also adding to the pressure on our tree canopy. As the City paves the way for an estimated 1.14 million inhabitants by 2031, and competition for square footage intensifies, trees sometimes lose out. The City manages over 148,000 street trees plus thousands of park trees, but it can only do so much. “It’s critical we get homeowners involved,” says Barnes.
Even property owners who are new to tree planting are being urged to put boot to shovel, and they’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Seventeen species—a mix of conifers, deciduous and fruit- or nut-bearing trees, native to Eastern Ontario—will be arriving from the Ferguson Tree Nursery in Kemptville. Camille Franquet, Outreach Coordinator for Ecology Ottawa, says that people can find instructions for caring for trees on the website. “We’re making it easy for people who have never done this before so that anyone can get involved.”
Planting a mix of native trees is seen as one strategy to curb the emerald ash borer’s voracious appetite, as well as a boon to local birds and wildlife. But arguably it’s humans who stand to gain the most from having more resilient trees around, in ways we don’t always realize.
“Living among trees offers direct benefits for human health,” says Andrea Prazmowski, a certified nature and forest therapy guide who leads walks in the Ottawa region. “Studies have shown that hospital patients with a view of a tree outside their window tend to recover faster and are discharged sooner than patients who overlook a parking lot or another building.”
Given the many benefits of trees, it’s perhaps no coincidence that some of Ottawa’s most desirable neighbourhoods are also the leafiest.
Tree seedlings will be available at the corner of Mann and Goulburn, Saturday, June 26, 9 a.m-12 noon. For more information, visit ecologyottawa.ca/treecampaign.