9/02/2013

Vancouver Island's Urban Forests At Risk

Urban trees enhance the environment and add to our quality of life.

"New mapping by Habitat Acquisition Trust has revealed that in the six years between 2005 and 2011 the thirteen CRD municipalities lost 1037 hectares (2564 acres) of tree cover."

"Trees are falling in every municipality from Sidney to Sooke." So states a new study by the Habitat Acquisition Trust that looks at the state of the Victoria region's forest cover.

Trees are important wherever they grow, and their services are wide-ranging and irreplaceable. Fewer trees means a degraded environment that is less suitable for human and wildlife habitation. Therefore the loss of urban forests represents a serious threat to the quality of life on south Vancouver Island.

Highlights of the Results

Of the 13 CRD municipalities, in the 6 years between 2005 and 2011:

• The District of Saanich lost the most tree cover: 378 hectares. Langford was next losing 118 hectares of tree cover.
• The City of Victoria lost the largest percentage of its remaining tree cover - 8.8%. In absolute terms, this was only 42 hectares, but the City of Victoria has a relatively small amount of tree cover.
• The Town of Sidney lost the least amount of tree cover at 7 hectares, but that accounts for 7.5% of the small municipality’s remaining tree cover.
• Metchosin lost just 1.3% of its tree cover (66 hectares), the lowest percentage of any municipality. Highlands was next best, losing only 1.4% (46 hectares) of its tree cover.
• Highlands also has the highest level of tree cover in the region: 84% of the municipality is treed. Sidney is the least treed - only 18.3% of the town has tree cover.

The biggest losses resulted from urban development and expansion of agricultural operations. Many trees are cut on private property and not just development properties. 


Recommendations
  • Reduce the rate of tree loss, and plant new trees when appropriate.
  • Encourage municipalities to formulate and implement an Urban Forest Strategy aimed at achieving a sustainable urban forest with no net loss of cover.
  • Solicit the help of private landowners who can care for existing trees, and plant new ones, and agree to permanently protect their property with a conservation covenant, or as a park or nature sanctuary.
  • Landscape with native trees and other plants.
  • Leaving buffer zones of native trees and plants between developments and waterways helps control erosion, filter water, and enhance salmon habitat.

Read the full Habitat Acquisition Trust report here (pfd).

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