Our Forests Need Biodiversity

Trees in a forest from perspective of person looking up

From a young age we’re taught about the importance of trees. Trees have an important role in ecosystems around the world and influence our health and wellbeing. Research even tells us that people are happier when surrounded by trees.

The Credit River Watershed is home to an impressive 90 species of trees, most of which are native to this part of the province. The three most common tree species in the watershed are sugar maple, white ash and American beech.

Seedlings on a forest flood
Sugar maple seedlings

Did you know that 40 per cent of the trees monitored in the watershed are currently affected by disease or pests? Non-native beech bark disease and emerald ash borer target beech and ash trees. And a range of native and non-native fungus and cankers can also infect most trees including beech and ash. Pests and diseases are a natural part of forest ecosystems, but a high abundances of unhealthy trees can be a concern. So, what does this mean for the watershed’s forests?

When a tree succumbs to pests or disease, space opens up in the forest, making way for other trees or plants to grow in and fill the gap. Through our long-term monitoring, we’re seeing more sugar maple seedlings popping up on the forest floor. While this may not seem like a bad thing, sugar maples already dominate our forests, making up almost half of all trees in deciduous (trees and shrubs that sheds its leaves annually) and mixed forests (a forest with both deciduous and coniferous tree species) across the watershed. As these new seedlings grow, our forests may shift to being dominated even more by this single species. Imagine if a new pest were to arrive to the watershed that targeted sugar maple – this could be devastating to our already stressed forests.

Damaged inside an ash tree from emerald ash borer
Ash tree infested with emerald ash borer (EAB)

Biodiversity – or the variety of life – is critical in all ecosystems, including forests. Ecosystems with a diversity of species are more resilient to stressors in the environment like invasive species and climate change.

To learn more about the health of ecosystems in the watershed and how you can take action to help protect, restore and enhance our local natural environment, check out the IWMP StoryMap Collection.

By: Adrienne Ockenden, Specialist, Watershed Monitoring

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