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Toronto’s Trees Getting Back To Their Roots

TORONTO, May 19 – The City of Toronto has partnered with Trees Ontario in an innovative project in gene conservation to plant native trees in their original neighbourhoods. The Tree Seed Diversity project will bring three year-old red and black oak seedlings back to their urban roots in the city’s parks and ravines. The new seedlings will be planted this month in eight parks including L’Amoreaux Park, Glen Stewart Park and Kew Gardens in east Toronto.

Grown from native seeds collected four years ago, these local trees are the first key step to restoring the native diversity of trees that have evolved over centuries to be best adapted to growing conditions in the city.

“Ontario’s forests are increasingly under threat from climate change as well as the introduction of new insect pests and diseases from around the globe,” says Richard Ubbens, Director of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation’s Urban Forestry branch. “Urban forests are particularly vulnerable, due to the historic use of commercial landscaping stock from a narrow genetic base of cultivated tree varieties and clones. By giving these seedlings a head start we are working toward bringing our native forests back
and slowing the spread of invasive tree species in Toronto’s parks and ravines.”

In 2005, Brian Swaile, Trees Ontario Seed and Stock Coordinator and certified seed collector, gathered red and black oak acorns in the Beaches Glen Stewart Ravine. The seeds were delivered to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Tree Seed Plant near Angus for processing and then sown by a local native plant nursery. After several years of growth under controlled nursery conditions, the first crop of red and black oak seedlings are ready for planting in Toronto.

“Five years ago, Trees Ontario partnered with the Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation’s Urban Forestry branch in an effort to start exploring solutions to the complex problems facing Toronto’s urban forests,” said Michael Scott, President and CEO, Trees Ontario. “These seedlings are an important first step for the City of Toronto and will hopefully inspire other cities across the province to plan their own local seed acquisition programs to replenish their forests.”

Sponsored by Toronto Hydro, this project is being carried out by the City of Toronto and Trees Ontario in collaboration with the Ontario Forest Gene Conservation Association and the Ontario Tree Seed Plant.

For more information, please visit www.toronto.ca/trees/ravines.htm.

City of Toronto

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. 2009 marks the 175th anniversary of Toronto’s incorporation as a city. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Ontario Forest Gene Conservation Association

The Forest Gene Conservation Association (FGCA) promotes the importance of the genetic resources of the forests of South Central Ontario, with emphasis on conservation of genetic diversity of native forest tree species. FGCA’s focus lies in promoting the maintenance and restoration of the genetic base of woody plant species (trees and shrubs), increasing the economic benefits of planting through planning and implementing tree breeding programs for selected woody plant species and ensuring the use of biologically appropriate seed sources in support of planting programs. To learn more visit
www.fgca.net/home/default.aspx.

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Tree Seed Plant

Since its establishment in 1923, the Ontario Tree Seed Plant has played a key role in the protection of Ontario’s rich natural heritage. The facility collects seed from about 50 different native species and supplies smaller nursery operations, large forestry companies and the public. It also maintains a seed bank of native tree species from across the province and makes seed available for reforestation. In this way, the plant contributes to Ontario’s commitment to conserving biological diversity.