Toronto – Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive insect from Asia that is devastating ash tree populations across Ontario, has moved eastward across the province.
Initially discovered in Michigan and in southwestern Ontario in 2002, the pest tunnels underneath tree bark, cutting off the flow of water and nutrients and killing the tree within a few years.
The Urban Forest Stewardship Network (UFSN) connects grassroots organizations working on issues like EAB. These groups–including LEAF (Toronto and York Region), ReForest London, GreenUP (Peterborough) and Neighbourwoods on the Grand (Centre Wellington)–offer a variety of planting and stewardship programs that engage residents.
Initiatives range from tree planting programs to educational programs that help residents understand their options.
There is a treatment derived from the neem tree seed that is injected into the base of healthy ash trees. If done every two years, the treatment can save trees. Member groups of the UFSN are spreading information about this issue, and what local residents can do in their own communities.
“We teach people about the signs of EAB in our presentations and training sessions, and we make sure they know about TreeAzin treatment, a bio-insecticide that can be effective in saving ash trees,” says Julie Ryan, Director of Programs at Reforest London.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, ash trees typically make up at least 10% of planted urban trees. Ash was planted in large numbers because it tolerates stressful urban conditions like drought, compacted soil and salt spray. There are an estimated 860,000 ash trees in Toronto and an estimated 500,000 estimated ash trees in London. Many municipalities across the province have already spent millions dealing with ash tree removals and replacement plantings.
Healthy urban trees provide preventative health care benefits through shade, filtered air, cleaner waterways and reduced smog. When planted strategically, they reduce energy costs, increase property value and offer privacy. Trees also provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, supporting our urban ecosystems.