New studies show need for more ambitious city greening plans to improve equity and well-being, tackle climate change
TORONTO | Traditional territory of many nations – including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples – and now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples — Toronto and Ottawa residents overwhelmingly support improving the density and diversity of their urban forests, according to two studies released today by the David Suzuki Foundation and the Canada Research Chair in Ecological Economics.
“The results are loud and clear: People in Toronto and Ottawa want bigger and better urban forests,” said Félix Lorrain-Landry, PhD student at the University of Quebec in Outaouais and study lead author. “They recognize that the resilience and distribution of urban forests is critical to boosting their own well-being and being better prepared in the face of global crises.”
The studies attempted to learn peoples’ preferences in terms of five urban forest characteristics: density, diversity, ratio of conifers/deciduous trees, the visual aspect and related costs.
Results from nearly 2,000 surveys show that residents in both cities would prefer an urban forest that is twice as dense as current levels, more diversified and includes more street-level shrubs. These preferences are consistent with urban forestry best practices for an equitable and climate-resilient forest.
“More than 80 per cent of Canadians live in urban areas, and we’re feeling the increasing impacts of climate change,” said David Suzuki Foundation sustainable communities director Julius Lindsay. “But nature can be our ally in this fight for a healthier planet and greater well-being for all. We just need to be bold in our approach. Investing in green infrastructure is part of the solution.”
Among the findings, the studies report that tree and shrub cover is unequally distributed among neighbourhoods, and residents support directing greater public funds to more ambitious municipal greening plans. It also makes four recommendations, including increasing the cities’ canopy indices by between 20 to 22 per cent and giving planting priority to areas with high population density and low tree cover.
“Incorporating resident preferences into city greening plans is critical to achieving equitable management of the urban forests, increasing their resilience and improving the well-being of the population,” said Jérôme Dupras, professor at the University of Quebec in Outaouais and Canada Research Chairholder in Ecological Economics. “It’s time for decision-makers to listen.”
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The project was carried out by a team of researchers at the University of Quebec in Outaouais and University of Montreal, and supported by the David Suzuki Foundation as part of the Laboratoire pour une forêt urbaine en santé (lab for a healthy urban forest) project funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec’s AUDACE Program. The results of each study are presented in two full reports, available here: Toronto and Ottawa.
Headed by Prof. Jérôme Dupras, the Canada Research Chair in Ecological Economics is based at Université du Québec en Outaouais’ Institute of Temperate Forests Science. A team of 23 researchers and graduate students seek to understand and measure the contribution of biodiversity and ecosystems to human well-being.
The David Suzuki Foundation (DavidSuzuki.org | @DavidSuzukiFdn) is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, founded in 1990. We operate in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. We collaborate with all people in Canada, including First Nations leadership and communities, governments, businesses and individuals to find solutions to create a sustainable Canada through scientific research, traditional ecological knowledge, communications and public engagement, and innovative policy and legal solutions. Our mission is to protect nature’s diversity and the well-being of all life, now and for the future.