CANADA – Ontario: planting trees to restore ecosystems

Farm Simcoe County ©Sarah Archibald

Background & challenges

Over the past century, forest cover in southern Ontario has declined to the point to such an extent it is now only 25% of its original level. This is insufficient for ensuring the health of local wildlife and ecosystems. At the same time, farmers have been cutting down trees to switch the land to arable production, resulting in soil degradation, water quality problems, and loss of biodiversity at farm level.

Tree planting in this project aims to restore ecological corridors for local species. It also seeks to improve soil quality by adding organic matter to limit erosion and nutrient leaching in the watersheds. In addition, the trees will store carbon.

The five farms involved in the project all have objectives specific to their context:

  • the first farm, in the Manitoulin Island region, was recently purchased by some young farmers. They want to shift from conventional to organic vegetable farming. But the farm is surrounded by conventional farms that spray chemical pesticides and herbicides. The trees planted will create a windbreak and shelter the fields from products used by the neighbouring farms, while promoting growth of healthier organic food;
  • on the second, in the Simcoe County region, its farmers want to restore forest cover to improve soil conservation and create a habitat for wildlife. At the same time, they are acquiring a neighbouring farm to serve as a learning and educational centre for future farmers. Through these actions, the farmers aim to improve the beauty of the landscape and soil conservation, provide a habitat for local wildlife, and create shade for future generations.
  • over the next two years, in the Middlesex and Grey County regions, farmers want to plant trees on land previously used for grazing that is too steep for row crops. This project will restore pasture, protect the soil from erosion, promote biodiversity in the valley, and improve river water quality;
  • on the fifth farm, in the Grey County region, farmers are mainly interested in improving the wildlife habitat since the trees planted will supplement larger tracts of forestland. Fragmented habitats have negative effects on biodiversity, including wildlife and pollinators. Windbreaks and shade buffers with neighbouring farms are desired objectives, too.

The species chosen are adapted to the local area and selected to suit their planting site, e.g., water-tolerant trees with dense root systems for planting on riverbanks and restoring riverside areas. Tree species of differing heights, when mature, are planted together to form effective windbreaks with dense root systems to maximise the photosynthetic surface area of the trees. Tree species are grown from locally harvested and regionally adapted seed. In addition, most of the tree species selected are pioneer species that can withstand the cold Canadian winters. 

Project type

Forestry and agroforestry

Beneficiaries

5 farming families

Number of trees

13,000 trees planted to retain 10,000

Species planted

Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), white spruce (Picea glauca), red pine (Pinus resinosa), Norway spruce (Picea abies), eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis ), red oak (Quercus rubra), tamarack (Larix laricina), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), European larch (Larix decidua), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa).

Partner

PUR Projet

Previous planting ©Forests Ontario

Works timeline

Already completed (2016-2018): seed collection from local trees and growing seedlings in a local nursery.

September – October 2019: selecting local planting partners.

January – March 2020: training tree planters in relevant planting techniques.

April – September 2020:

  • when the temperature is 3 to 4 C° for 10 days in a row, gathering tree seedlings from the nursery ;
  • transporting seedlings to the farms;
  • land preparation, adjusting seeders.

May – October 2020: planting.

Sept – November 2021: monitoring and evaluation.

Planting partner

PUR Projet helps companies to restore the ecosystems on which they depend, while enabling local communities to improve their living conditions through long-term projects. Through agroforestry, land conservation and sustainable agricultural practices, PUR Projet helps companies strengthen and secure their supply chains. As a social enterprise, PUR Projet reinvests its profits in the development of innovative projects, encouraging local entrepreneurial initiatives for a responsible, positive and virtuous economy.

Budget

The total budget to be collected is €53 000, or €5,30 per tree, broken down as follows:

  • seedling cost: €0,93     
  • site preparation: €1,14       
  • technical assistance and planting: €0,86        
  • program management: €1,31
  • collection, follow-up and communication costs for A Tree For You (20%): €1,06

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