What are the major “tree hugging” groups in Canada?
Can you make a living in trees, we wondered?
Could we brainstorm an alphabet of tree-based careers?
(We have decided to share Lucy’s photos of wild flowers in this blog.)
Tree Conservation NGOs in Canada
Ask the Internet, and ye shall find….
Thanks to CanadianForests.com, our first curiosity is readily answered by their alphabetized “Directory of NGOs Working in the Forest Sector in Canada”.
Some names, such as, for example, Forests Ontario, Forests Stewardship Council – Canada, Greenpeace Canada, Nature Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada, David Suzuki Foundation, Tree Canada and World Wildlife Fund – Canada, were familiar names to us through our past Blogs.
Others were surprises, like Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation, and, Canadian Model Forests Network, generating new curiosities and potential topics for future blogs. We wonder what the link is between salmon and trees? What is a ‘model forest’?
Some names just made us smile – Ducks Unlimited Canada.
EcoTrust Canada sounds like it addresses a gap – “builds the capacity of communities, institutions and businesses to participate in the conservation economy; raises and brokers capital to accelerate the transition to a conservation economy; and connects conservation”.
Some NGOs are quite tree specific, such as the Poplar and Willow Council of Canada.
The National Aboriginal Forestry Association (NAFA) “is a national organization created by forestry-minded Aboriginal people to advance the interests and needs of Aboriginal communities, organizations, enterprises and individuals involved in the forest sector.”
In Canada, since 2001 apparently, the GoodJobs website has provided a focus on listing paid and volunteer opportunities in the green economy. Makes for interesting and informative reading we found, whether you are in the job market or not. For example, the site also offers lists of, and hotlinks to, major Canadian environmental and conservation organizations, green business and environment industry associations.
We wondered what a directory of international organizations might look like. Turns out the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has just such a list, in a publication called, “INTERNATIONAL FOREST SECTOR INSTITUTIONS AND POLICY INSTRUMENTS FOR EUROPE: A SOURCE BOOK (As of February 2006),” available at https://bit.ly/3hRyfqF.
The book’s abstract describes its intent and scope – “provides an overview of the institutional landscape with relevance to forest sector policies in Europe. 43 major international, inter-governmental, private and non-governmental as well as research institutes are introduced, and their multiple activities are presented. Following a brief description of each institution, this report provides relevant information on international policies, policy instruments, programmes and publications that could have an impact on the future development of the forest and forest industry sector in Europe. The information contained in this paper is based on the World Wide Web and a broad review of existing literature.”
Again some are familiar names, such as World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Others foster much-needed inter-disciplinary scientific studies in areas such as “Global Change and Forests,” in the case of the IIASA. “The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is a non-governmental research organization located in Austria. The institute conducts inter-disciplinary scientific studies on environmental, economic, technological and social issues in the context of the human dimensions of global change. The IIASA overall theme in the forestry area is Global Change and Forests. It addresses the question of how to manage the forest sector in order to harmonize geo- and biospheric functions with socioeconomic development.”
The report also includes descriptions of major international private sector organizations in the forestry sector, such as the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries, Confederation of European Paper Industries, European Federation of Plywood Industry (FEIC), European Federation of Parquet Industry, European Network of Forest Entrepreneurs, Confederation of European Forest Owners (representing ‘16 million family forest owners in 23 European Countries owning on average less than 13 hectares’), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), “an international network to promote responsible management of the world’s forests”.
Emerging from the Pandemic with Panache
We end this Blog post with a smile.
We like Barcelona’s approach to emerging from pandemic lockdown this week, with style.
As Global News reports, “Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house reopened Monday and performed its first concert since the coronavirus lockdown — to an audience that didn’t have to worry about social distancing.”
“Instead of people, the UceLi Quartet played Giacomo Puccini’s I Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) for 2,292 plants, one for each seat in the theatre. The concert was also livestreamed for humans to watch.”
“The event was conceived by Spanish artist Eugenio Ampudia, who said he was inspired by nature during the pandemic.”
“ ‘I heard many more birds singing. And the plants in my garden and outside growing faster. And, without a doubt, I thought that maybe I could now relate in a much intimate way with people and nature,’ he said before the performance.” https://bit.ly/37U4HnI
And, if that is not enough to make you smile, The Liceu press release on the event adds, “…The concert is an initiative of the Liceu and the artist, together with the Max Estrella Gallery and the curator Blanca De La Torre.”
“The plants will subsequently be delivered to 2,292 healthcare professionals, specifically at the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona, accompanied by a certificate from the artist.” https://bit.ly/2Z7gECf
There are few places on Earth that showcase the extraordinary beauty, diversity of life and wonders to be discovered as in the Amazon Rainforest. It provides such a unique and vital ecosystem that benefits us all, so its story is both breath-taking and heart-breaking in equal measure.
The Magnitude of the Amazon
The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest covering over 5.5 million square kilometres. It’s so big that the UK and Ireland would fit into it 17 times!
The Amazon river system is the second longest after the Nile River and spans 6840 kms across eight countries and one overseas territory, through Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana/ France.
The Ecosystem of the Amazon
We are learning so much for this post, from sources that includeRhett Butler’s Mongabay research website, InJustOneDay website, the Verge, National Geographic Kids, the Guardian and Wikipedia.
The facts alone on the Amazon Rainforest are staggering. For example, its incredibly rich ecosystem, contains one-tenth of the world’s known species and is one of the Earth’s last refuges for animals such as jaguars, harpy eagles, and pink dolphins. The latest estimates by (InJustOneDay.com) say there are “40,000 plant species, 1600 species of tree, 3,000 freshwater fish species, 1600 bird species, 1000 amphibians, 400+ mammals and more than 370 types of reptiles.This of course doesn’t take account of the myriad of insects and invertebrates that live there.” A recent report by the World Wildlife Foundation confirmed that scientists are discovering an average of one new species in the Amazon every other day.
According to InJustOneDay.com, more than 30 million people and around 350-450 indigenous Amerindian tribes call the Amazon Rainforest home and rely on it for their shelter, food, agriculture and livelihoods. Incredibly, they also indicate that about fifty of these tribes have never had contact with the outside world! Many would argue that the best way to protect this precious forest is to put management back in the hands of indigenous communities.
The Rain in the Amazon
“This rainforest of immense natural beauty plays an important role in limiting climate change. The forest’s rich vegetation takes carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) out of the air and releases oxygen. Due to the thickness of the canopy (the top branches and leaves of the trees), the Amazon floor is in permanent darkness. In fact, it’s so thick that when it rains, it takes around ten minutes for the water to reach the ground!” (InJustOneDay.com)
“The Amazon has been variously called the heart of the world or the lungs of the world because of the river’s numerous veins feeding water through to the earth or its capacity to exchange gases with the atmosphere.There are 600 billion trees in the Amazon Rainforest, for example, and with the heat of the sun, each tree every day transfers 1,000 litres of water into the atmosphere through transpiration. Throughout the entire rainforest this equates to 20 billion metric tons of water in one day. Scientists have recently discovered that this water vapour released in to the atmosphere creates low level clouds which then falls as rain in the forest. This rain encourages the air to circulate and draw in more moisture from the oceans which makes it rain even more. Through transpiration, the Amazon rainforest is responsible for creating 50-75% of its own rain.” (Info source: InJustOneDay.com).
“We are also learning from the site that this natural process has a much wider reach, with Amazon rainfall and rivers feeding regions that generate 70 percent of South America’s wealth. Studies (InJustOneDay.com), indicate that moisture from the Amazon influences rainfall as far away as the Western United States and Central America. Without trees, there will be no transpiration which in turns impacts the level of rain which then affects water supply and brings drought to areas.”
Deforestation and Carbon Loss
“Trees not only absorb carbon dioxide from the air, they also store carbon in their roots, leaves and trunk. Trees in the Amazon rainforest hold 48 billion tons of carbon and so when trees are cut down, tons of carbon dioxide is released into our atmosphere, with the negative impact that has on the worldwide environment.” (Info source: National Geographic Kids, at: https://bit.ly/2Y0Ujao).
“Through a concerted effort by Governments and environmental agencies alike and the introduction of various initiatives, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest was in decline after 2004, mostly due to the falling deforestation rate in Brazil.”
“But sadly, according to Rhett Butler’s Mongabay research site, since 2014, deforestation is on the rise again. The site explains that “through logging, fires and land clearance there is a decrease in forest transpiration and a lengthening of dry seasons. Left unchecked, the rainforest can gradually turn into a savanna. In recent years, São Paulo – the biggest city in South America – is facing its worst water shortages in almost a century. Any previous declines in deforestation have been fueled by a number of factors, including increased law enforcement, satellite monitoring, pressure from environmentalists, private and public sector initiatives, new protected areas, and macroeconomic trends.”
“In a study cited in September 2017 on Mongabay, the results for the Amazon are worrying. What they have found by combining studies over the last 12 years in major parts of the world where deforestation is occurring, is that the carbon that is released into the atmosphere is greater than that taken in, giving a net carbon loss, a situation that must be reversed. The study found a net carbon loss on every continent where deforestation occurs. Further, the Amazon, in Latin America, accounted for nearly 60% of the emissions.” More Amazon rainforest information and access to this study may be found at: https://bit.ly/2Y0XOxx.
Fires of 2019 in the Amazon Caused Largely by Intentional Slash and Burn Methods
Wikipedia explains that “fires in the Amazon normally occur around the dry season as slash-and-burn methods are used to clear the forest to make way for agriculture, livestock, logging, and mining, leading to deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest. Such activity is generally illegal within these nations, but enforcement of environmental protection has become lax in recent years in Brazil under the current government of President Jair Bolsanaro.” (https://bit.ly/2UP3t7Y)
Photo by Lucy from National Geographic Family Reference Atlas
Excerpts from an article by The Verge describes scientists’ and the international community’s assessment and concern over the severity of the fires of 2019, and their alarm about the implications for climate change and the world’s environment.
“These are intentional fires to clear the forest,” Cathelijne Stoof, coordinator of the Fire Center at Wageningen University (WUR) in the Netherlands, tells The Verge…The INPE (National Institute for Space Research) found that deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon hit an 11-year high in 2019. … There is no doubt that this rise in fire activity is associated with a sharp rise in deforestation,” Paulo Artaxo, an atmospheric physicist at the University of São Paulo, told Science Magazine.”
“ ‘The Amazon was buying you some time that it is not going to buy anymore,’ Carlos Quesada, a scientist at Brazil’s National Institute for Amazonian Research, told Public Radio International in 2018. Scientists warn that the rainforest could reach a tipping point, turning into something more like a savanna when it can no longer sustain itself as a rainforest. That would mean it’s not able to soak up nearly as much carbon as it does now. And if the Amazon as we know it dies, it wouldn’t go quietly. As the trees and plants perish, they would release billions of tons of carbon that has been stored for decades — making it nearly impossible to escape a climate catastrophe.”
International leaders, including those of France and the UK, called for emergency international talks on the Amazon to exert pressure and offer financial aid, for President Bolsanaro to act on the August 2019 fires.
For the full analysis on the 2019 Amazon fires, including why this is such a hot topic politically, and how the policies and practices of the Bolsanaro government are viewed as making it easier for industry to enter the rainforest and for development to encroach on land previously set aside for Indigenous tribes and preservation, read more at The Verge, at https://bit.ly/2YADimz.
Most of us looking in likely think this was just a bad fire season in the Amazon, but in truth, the climate conditions were not favourable for bad fires, and many of these fires were man-made.
“It’s too early for a verdict, but at present, threats to the Brazilian Amazon are growing virtually unchecked while the COVID-19 pandemic deepens in 2020. As the virus spreads, ‘land grabbing’ is advancing and there is no sign of deforestation slowing. According to a recent article in The Guardian, “On the contrary, numbers are skyrocketing with nearly 800 square kms of forest cut down during the first quarter of 2020, a 51% increase compared to the same period in 2019. The situation in the Amazon looks to get far worse before it gets better.” https://bit.ly/2UKFN4A.
The Amazon and Generations to Come
A call to action, from InJustOneDay.com, which speaks to us both – “So, for the millions of people, animals and plants that rely on and live in the Amazon and for the millions of us who benefit from its survival, we must protect and preserve it for now and for generations to come.”
“The Amazon rainforest and river and all it holds is a reminder that there are still great wonders to be discovered. They are everywhere, every day often in the things we barely notice, the things we almost forget.” https://bit.ly/2Y5NvbE
We have come to learn and believe that the Amazon rainforest is a treasure, and our heart and lungs for the Earth. https://bit.ly/3de9a5E
“The #AmazonRainforest is a critical piece of the global climate solution. Without the largest rainforest in the world, we cannot keep the Earth’s warming in check. The Amazon needs more than prayers. 50% of all known plants and animals on Earth live in the #rainforest. If these forests disappear, many of these species will have nowhere else to go.”
What Can One Person Do to Save the Amazon Rainforest?
As an individual living so far away from the Amazon it is easy to feel helpless as to how one can make a difference in saving this Rainforest. Here are some suggestions from tanksgoodnews.com, that we each might consider:
“1. Donate to a rainforest-focussed nonprofit:
Organizations like the Rainforest Trust and the Rainforest Alliance are working to combat the destruction of the Amazon rainforest by increasing environmental protections and stopping the rampant and illegal deforestation that is threatening one of the Earth’s most vital ecosystems.”
“2. Be a conscious consumer:
By doing your best to buy products that are certified as sustainable and rainforest-conscious you can help stop the demand that spurs illegal deforestation by ranchers and farmers in the Amazon basin.”
Some people won’t want to hear this one but a huge factor leading to the deforestation that is causing the fires isthe global demand for beef that is spurring ranchers to burn more and more land in the Amazon basin as they clear land for cattle. It may feel like a small thing but maybe reconsider that next burger.”
“The Amazon faces a dire threat: beef production. The record-breaking fires in the rainforest are mostly manmade to clear land for cattle grazing so much of the Amazon Is ‘Burning for Beef’. Fires are three times more common in the Amazon cattle farming areas and are used to clear forest for pasture. Fragile law enforcement means fines are ignored.”
You can lend your name and support to several petitions that have been started both on Change.org and by Greenpeace. A petition started by a private citizen in Brazil titled “Stop the burning of the Amazon rainforest!” has already garnered an incredible 4 million signatures, showing just how much people care about stopping the devastation.”
“5. Read About and Talk About Deforestation of the Amazon:
Whether you do so on social media or in your social circle, the more you and others discuss this issue the more it will be part of the public discourse. By sharing stories about the horrendous damage being done you’re helping to raise awareness of a vital issue, the survival of the Amazon Rainforest.” https://bit.ly/3e6hUfd
We found it very informative to read and learn about the Amazon Rainforest for this blog, and we hope it offers some “food for thought” for our Readers too, as it has raised our own awareness .
As we all continue to shelter-in-place during the pandemic, many of us are becoming more aware and intentional about pursuing opportunities to support local farmers of the food we eat. (Some of us are even trying our hand at vegetable gardening ourselves and learning firsthand just how patient, dedicated and resilient farmers need to be!)
We might want to consider how to extend such mindfulness to include local buying practices that have preserving the Amazon rainforest in mind too (e.g., choosing to buy local beef, soy, grains; or looking for eco-certifications such as ‘green frog’ symbols on international products). Consider all forms of protein when planning meals – the Canadian food guide suggests protein can be in the form of: fish, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, yogurt, milk, chicken, pork, beef, eggs and tofu.
A Look at Four Of the Amazing Amazon Trees
It’s no secret that we need trees—much more than they need us. To end this blog on a high note, here are just a few beautiful and important species of trees from the Amazon for Readers to behold, courtesy of Rainforest-Alliance.org at https://bit.ly/2YCW6RZ.
“This rainforest giant can reach up to 200 feet in height. Some varieties of the kapok tree bear spines or conical thorns, giving the tree a menacing appearance. Many plant and animal species, such as frogs, birds, and bromeliads, appreciate the nooks and crannies formed by the kapok’s roots. Some indigenous communities, such as the Sani Kichwa in Ecuador, believe that the the kapok tree tree is the father of all animals.”
“Native to the Amazon, the rubber tree provides material for everything from tires to waterproof clothing. We have the ancient Olmec, Maya, and Aztec to thank for first discovering the versatility of the tree’s milky white sap, known as latex. After approximately six years of age, the tree can be tapped for this substance by removing thin strips of bark. Once collected and dried, the latex gets processed and turns into what we call natural rubber.”
“Indigenous to parts of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, the ramón tree is typically found in abundance in these regions’ forest ecosystems—a result of its centuries-long cultivation by indigenous communities. These communities harvest the nut from the tree’s fruit, for its nutritional value. When dried, it can be stored for up to five years without spoiling, making it an important food source in regions with frequent periods of drought and food instability.”
“Xate (pronounced SHA-tay) are the leaves produced from three species of palms most commonly found in Belize and Guatemala. Growing in the understory of Neotropical forests, xate is commonly used in floral arrangements due to their lush appearance and their hardiness—they can last up to 45 days after being cut! By harvesting xate, these women in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve have not only found a sustainable way to manage their forests, but also have taken on leadership roles in these enterprises.” https://bit.ly/2V06Zwm
Plants Help Home Air Quality
From trees as “lungs of the world” to plants as home air purifiers.
We are happy to build on and follow up last week’s Blog post, which offered research evidence to help answer the question of which trees are best for improving urban air quality, with this tidbit on improving indoor air quality through beautiful house plants.
Turns out there is NASA research (!) which identifies the best house plants for cleaning indoor air.
The skinny is that snake plants, spider plants, Boston ferns and the peace lily are among the best.
Here’s the evidence and summary excerpt from the actual NASA research report:
“Low-light-requiring houseplants, along with activated carbon plant filters, have demonstrated the potential for improving indoor air quality by removing trace organic pollutants from the air in energy-efficient buildings. This plant system is one of the most promising means of alleviating the sick building syndrome associated with many new, energyefficient buildings. The plant root-soil zone appears to be the most effective area for removing volatile organic chemicals. Therefore, maximizing air exposure to the plant root-soil area should be considered when placing plants in buildings for best air filtration. Activated carbon filters containing fans have the capacity for rapidly filtering large volumes of polluted air and should be considered an integral part of any plan using houseplants for solving indoor air pollution problems.”
The full (dry) NASA report at: https://go.nasa.gov/3hri82K. ( ” Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement Final Report – September 15, 1989″.)
Alternatively, a visually appealing descriptor of NASA’s 12 recommended plants is available here, at medium.com – https://bit.ly/3d6Bgjb.
What makes us uniquely Canadian? That is a vast topic, for different bloggers to tackle.
In terms of wildlife, however, and more specifically plant wildlife, our interest was piqued by a recent CBC article profiling research called “Ours to Save.” The study apparently achieved a Canadian first.
As the report’s authors and sponsors describe, “NatureServe Canada and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), in consultation with experts from across the country, have developed the first comprehensive list of plants, animals and fungi that can only be found in Canada.”
This select group of 308 of Canada’s “nationally endemic species” occur only in Canada.
The report systematically identifies wildlife species and sub-species that are unique to each province and territory, and flag more than 200 vulnerable species that “only Canada can save from extinction”.
Here we will keep our focus on the findings related to plant wildlife, illustrating example species and profiles of provinces and territories.
The authors hope that, “The results of this project can be used to prioritize conservation actions and to inspirepublic support for species and habitat protection in Canada.”
Readers who want to learn more about a specific region, and/or the other wildlife addressed in the study (e.g., animals, insects) may read the full report (75 pages) here https://bit.ly/2MGZVQq, and species profiles at https://bit.ly/3h95bKT.
“There are 109 nationally endemic plants in Canada. Almost 60% are full species and the remainder are subspecies and varieties. Only 12 are ranked by NatureServe as globally Secure or Apparently Secure. These secure plants include species with restricted ranges that are abundant and not threatened, such as Ogilvie Range Locoweed (Oxytropis nigrescens var. lonchopoda) in Yukon, and species that are more widespread but their global range is restricted to Canada. This includes Limestone Scurvygrass (Cochlearia tridactylites) and Limestone Willow (Salix calcicola var. calcicola).”
“Endemic plants occur in every province and territory, with BC and Quebec having the greatest number. The territories, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan are also relatively rich in endemic flora. Key areas for endemic vascular plants in Canada include the Athabasca Sand Dunes, coasts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and St. Lawrence River freshwater estuary, islands of Canada’s West Coast, mountainous regions in Yukon and limestone plains on the island of Newfoundland.”
“Canada has 14 species of mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi that are nationally endemic. Only one of these is a subspecies. All are of global conservation concern or are Unranked. These species occur across the country, including a beard lichen (Usnea fibrillosa) endemic to Nova Scotia, Slender Notchwort (Crossocalyx tenuis) endemic to Ontario and Carlott’s Wijkia Moss (Wijkia carlottae) endemic to Haida Gwaii.”
Example Endemic Plant Species Profiles
“Lake Louise arnica” is a small, perennial herbaceous plant in the sunflower family, named for Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies.
This species’ pale-yellow colour and drooping shape help distinguish it from similar arnica species in the region.
Lake Louise arnica is unique to Canada and is found only in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta and BC. It grows in alpine meadows and on rocky, exposed slopes at high elevations.
“The Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster is a fleshy annual plant with clusters of small, white to pinkish flowers.”
“Its leaves are lance-shaped and range from 1.1 to 6.5 centimetres in length and from two to 9.8 millimetres in width. The tip of its leaves is slightly rounded.”
“Gulf of St. Lawrence aster produces dry fruits, called achenes, with silky tufts, which help the seeds to be dispersed by wind. This plant is also self-fertile and can reproduce on its own without other plants.”
“There are only 29 known populations of this species, whose range is limited to Quebec’s Magdalen Islands, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.”
“This species grows on moist sandy soils. It can be found on coastal habitats: beaches, dunes, lagoons and dry areas in salt marshes.”
“The Gulf of St. Lawrence aster is assessed as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.”
“Hairy braya was first collected during the Franklin expedition in 1826. Journals from the expedition were used to relocate this wildflower more than 150 years after its discovery. It is restricted to a small area along the northern coast of the Northwest Territories and is highly threatened by climate change and rising sea levels.”
Yukon draba: This delicate, white wildflower lives in dry open meadows in southwestern Yukon and is restricted to just a handful of sites. It is a relic of the land bridge that stretched between Russia and the Yukon during the last Ice Age.
Example Profiles forProvinces and Territories
The following excerpts give an illustrating flavour of the way findings are reported for each province and territory.
“Alberta has 54 nationally endemic species — the third highest in Canada (behind British Columbia and Quebec). Fifteen of these are subspecies or varieties, and four species have unresolved taxonomic questions. Alberta’s nationally endemic species include 16 vascular plants and two species of tiger beetles. Alberta also includes a portion of the breeding habitat for Whooping Crane (Grus americana) in Wood Buffalo National Park.”
Most Canadian endemic species occurring in Alberta are associated with the Rocky Mountains, Lake Athabasca and Cypress Hills. Many of the Rocky Mountain endemics can be found in Banff, Jasper and Waterton Lakes national parks and surrounding areas. Lake Louise Arnica (Arnica louiseana) is a colourful wildflower that can be found on exposed alpine slopes and calcareous rock slides at high elevations. There are also a few nationally endemic species that occur in the prairie region of the province. This includes Margaret’s Diving Beetle (Agabus margaretae), a predaceous beetle that only lives in vernal ponds in the northern prairies of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“British Columbia has 105 nationally endemic species. This is the highest in all of Canada and represents over one-third of Canada’s nationally endemic species. This includes 36 subspecies or varieties, and five species with questionable taxonomy. Over 70% of the nationally endemic species from BC are vascular plants and invertebrates. The province holds the vast majority of Canada’s endemic mammals and birds. There are 76 nationally endemic species found only in BC, by far the highest number in Canada. Many of these occur on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and other islands that probably acted as refugia during the last period of glaciation. Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii both have several endemic mammals and birds including Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis), Vancouver Island Water Shrew, (Sorex navigator brooksi) Queen Charlotte Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus picoideus),Queen Charlotte Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator carlottae), and several subspecies of the Townsend’s Vole (Microtus townsendii) (Cornely & Verts, 1988).”
“For its size, Nova Scotia has an extraordinary richness of nationally endemic species. Twenty-eight species have been documented, a richness similar to larger regions, including Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut.”
“Over 40 percent of the national endemic species found in Nova Scotia do not occur in other jurisdictions (Table 11). This percentage of subnational endemics is only greater in British Columbia and Yukon.”
“Nunavut Canada’s largest territory has 29 nationally endemic species. This includes 13 subspecies or varieties.”
“Five Canadian endemic species are found only in Nunavut (Table 12), including two butterflies. Johansen’s Sulphur (Colias johanseni) is only found on the dry tundra at Bernard Harbour in Nunavut. Rankin Inlet Sulphur (also known as the Kivaliq Sulphur) (Colias rankinensis) is more widespread and has been recorded in several locations across mainland Nunavut (Schmidt, 2018).”
“Ontario has a total of 28 endemic species. One-third are subspecies or varieties, and three species have questionable taxonomy. Most nationally endemic species found in Ontario are vascular plants and invertebrates. Nine of Ontario’s endemic species are entirely restricted to the province (Table 13). These species include a small scavenger beetle (Hydnobius autumnalis) that is only known from eastern Ontario; Slender Notchwort (Crossocalyx tenuis), a liverwort that has only been found on the Bruce Peninsula and Eugenia Falls on the Niagara Escarpment; a lichen (Myriolecis carlottiana) that only occurs on the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island; and Cain’s Screw Moss (Syntrichia cainii), that is restricted to alvars. The only other moss species restricted to Ontario is now believed to be extinct. Macoun’s Shining Moss (Neomacounia nitida) was first found in 1864 in elm and cedar swamps near Belleville and has only ever been known from those original collections. The original site had been cleared by 1892, and this moss has never been found again despite searches in 1972 and 2001 (COSEWIC, 2002).”
“Quebec has 57 nationally endemic species, the second highest number in Canada. This includes 17 subspecies or varieties, and six species have questionable taxonomy. Over 40% of the nationally endemic species from Quebec are vascular plants and seven are butterflies or moths.”
Which Trees are Best for Reducing Air Pollution?
We are often asked which trees are “best” for climate action.
This May 2020 article in the BBC highlights research findings by “Future Planet” on this question, which to no surprise involves many variables and as such, is complicated to answer.
Nonetheless – our topline take-aways, for Readers who want to cut to the skinny – conifers and low-VOC (volatile organic compound)-emitting trees.
The article starts by giving us examples of urban tree projects intended to help reduce air pollution, with the reminder that of course it is always better “to reduce emissions of pollutants in the first place.”
“But trees also play a vital role in directly removing pollutants from the air. Plants are often seen as the “lungs” of an ecosystem because they absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, says Rita Baraldi, a plant physiologist at the Institute of Bioeconomy of the Italian National Research Council. But they also act as an ecosystems “liver” too, filtering atmospheric pollutants like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide through their leaves.”
“Trees are particularly effective at removing particulate matter (PM), Nowak adds. PM comes in the form of tiny particles of organic chemicals, acids, metals and dust, emitted from fossil-fuel-burning vehicles and factories, as well as construction sites.”
Our top line take aways: Trees help reduce air pollution through dispersion and deposition of particulate matter (PM). Bigger tree canopies and leaf types with rough, rugged hairy surfaces are the best filters. Silver birch, yew, elder trees, silver maple, honey locusts and conifers, like pines and cypresses, are the most effective. Urban planners are advised to favour conifers and deciduous trees that are low producers of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
“From an urban planning perspective, plants act as a readily available set of PM purifiers. “Trees can help reduce PM in two main ways,” says Prashant Kumar, the founding director of the Global Centre for Clean Air Research at the University of Surrey.”
“The first one is dispersion – by crashing into trees and plants, concentrated clouds of minuscule particles get dispersed and so diluted by the air, decreasing the risk of inhalation by humans. The second one is deposition. PM can easily get trapped in the waxy, hairy leaves of trees and shrubs. When it rains, most of these particles are washed away by water into drains.”
“The extent to which each species performs such filtering activity depends mostly on canopy size, leaf size and leaf structure,” says Baraldi. Bigger canopies can trap more particles than smaller ones, and larger leaves can trap more pollutants than small ones. When it comes to leaf type, it is those with rough, rugged and hairy surfaces that act as the “best filters” for PM.”
“Recent research suggests that tiny hairs on plant leaves in particular may play a big role in trapping the solid and liquid particles that make up PM. In one recent study, Barbara Maher and colleagues at the University of Lancaster tested the ability of nine tree species to capture PM in wind-tunnel experiments. Silver birch, yew and elder trees were the most effective at capturing particles, and it was the hairs of their leaves that contributed to reduction rates of 79%, 71% and 70% respectively. In contrast, nettles emerged as the least useful of the species studied, though they still captured a respectable 32%.”
“Conifers, like pines and cypresses, are also good natural purifiers. In 2015, Jun Yang, an urban ecologist at the Center for Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, in Beijing, ranked the most frequently occurring species in cities based on their PM 2.5 absorption capacity. The ranking also took into account species’ ability to survive in urban contexts, and any negative impact on air quality, such as the production of allergens, and of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – a set of substances that can interact with gases emitted by vehicles, like nitrogen dioxide. In the presence of sunlight, these reactions can contribute to ground-level ozone, which is harmful to human health. The effects can be considerable; when a heatwave hit Berlin in 2006, the ozone created by the interaction of plants’ VOCs and vehicles’ pollutants resulted in sudden decreases in air quality.”
“The reason for conifers’ success in reducing PM is partly down to their canopy structure – the dense canopy of needle-like leaves typical of conifers is very effective at trapping pollutants. And their seasonal biology helps too. “Conifers offer the best PM reduction because they are an evergreen species,” Nowak says. Unlike deciduous trees, who lose their leaves during winter, evergreen species act as year-round filters. “But that does not automatically make them fit for any context.”
“The issue with conifers, Nowak says, is that many species can be very sensitive to salt levels in soils, which tend to be high in urban areas especially where salt is used to de-ice roads. Compounding the issue, conifers’ year-round canopy can block sunlight from melting snow and ice, which can lead to road traffic problems in cities subject to cold temperatures, Nowak notes. These two drawbacks to conifers were also cited by Yang as caveats to be considered in his recommendations.”
Our top line take aways: Overall, favour year round canopies offered by conifers, especially conifers with low-production of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as hemlocks and junipers and low-VOC deciduous trees like elm, horse chestnuts and basswood.
“Some deciduous species can also come with side-effects, Nowak says. For example, trees commonly found in cities of the northern hemisphere – such as poplars or black gum trees – can emit high levels of VOCs.
“Ideally, you want to be able to identify species that can maximise PM absorption but minimise ozone-precursor production,” says Margarita Préndez, an organic chemist at the University of Chile, who has studied how different species affect air quality in Santiago. Nowak cites conifers like hemlocks, junipers and deciduous trees like elms, horse chestnuts and basswood as examples of low-VOC plants.”
“Based on data from Santiago and other Chilean cities, native trees emit fewer VOCs than non-native trees,” Préndez adds. In Santiago, non-native species like the Prunus and the London plane tree can produce up to 30 times more VOCs than native species.”
“But this rule might not apply everywhere, and Yang says that you can’t generalise when it comes to endemic versus introduced trees. “Some of the best species for air pollution reduction are non-native,” he says. “We should not rule them out for ideological reasons.”
Which trees, where to plant them?
Our top line take aways: Seek expert guidance on which trees to plant and where to plant them to maximize tree benefits for improving urban air quality. It is complicated. Fortunately , there is an expert report to guide urban planners, by the Global Centre for Clean Air Research, University of Surrey, called, “Implementing Green Infrastructure for Air Pollution Abatement: General Recomendations for Management and Plant Species Selection”. The document “summarizes best practice regarding Green Infrastructure implementation for improved urban air quality and reduced pedestrian exposure to air pollution. Generic (i.e. not site-specific) recommendations are offered for typical urban environments.”
“It’s a finely balanced business to find the right trees for a city. But that’s just the start, says Nowak. The next question is where to plant them.”
“Many well-meaning schemes have suffered because of poorly planned planting. “Some cities like Beijing and Mexico City have planted trees pretty far from the city centers,” says Rob McDonald, lead scientist at The Nature Conservancy. ‘That may not be that beneficial.’”
“McDonald, who works with municipal governments to manage urban forests, says that as a rule of thumb, trees need to be planted close to where people – and sources of pollution – are.”
“And as wind direction and landscape structure can affect the way pollution moves, trees need to be planted accordingly, Nowak adds. In narrow streets surrounded by tall buildings, like those of downtown Manhattan, airflow can trap pollutants close to the ground. Planting tall trees with big canopies can make matters worse in this situation by preventing the pollution from dispersing. A recent tree planning scheme in Beijing ended up trapping pollution in certain areas, partly for this reason.”
“Kumar and his team recently issued specific recommendations for urban planners on this point. Hedges or green walls are generally to be preferred to trees in narrow streets flanked by tall buildings. While on broad roads surrounded by low-rise buildings, like those typical of the American suburbs, air can flow more freely so there is less risk of trapping pollutants, making both trees and hedges viable options. Examples of roadside hedges that work well include viburnum, red tip photinia, privet and bay laurel, Baraldi adds.”
“Ensuring biodiversityis also essential, even if one tree species is a standout winner in terms of its pollutant-trapping abilities. Kumar recommends that no more than 5-10% of an urban forest should be made of the same species or family. And a final factor that Nowak notes is that one should be realistic about maintenance and lifespan – plants that require little attention and that will last several decades are to be preferred.”
Implementing Green Infrastructure for Air Pollution Abatement: General Reccomendations for Management and Plant Species Selection – full report https://bit.ly/30qWUMb.
To access the full BBC article on Best Trees to Reduce Air Pollution (May 2020), that is the main source for this Blog post, see https://bbc.in/2XJuR94.
We are leaning that pears can grow in all provinces of Canada and the most common is the Bartlett pear. Pear trees can grow up to 40 feet tall, so you might want to consider a dwarf or semi-dwarf variety. See information below on which pear trees can self-pollinate. There are many varieties to choose from so talk with your local nursery about your choices.
Planting: “Pear trees need to have full sun. For best results do not grow from seed. For planting dig your hole wide and deep, mixing mix plenty of compost into the soil. Remove the tree from its container and set it in the hole to the same depth it was in its container. Gently spread the roots and refill the hole with the extra soil. Water well and continue to water regularly, about once or twice a week, until the roots are well established. Stake the tree too. “
Pruning: “A pear tree should be pruned immediately after planting, leaving only a central leader and choose three to five branches with outward rather than upward growth and prune out the rest. Trim off the ends of the remaining branches to encourage growth. Luckily pear trees have few insect problems. For the home garden with only one or two trees, fruit tree fertilizer spikes are perfect for fertilizing. Once established pear trees are very little work.” (Source: GardeningKnowHow.com https://bit.ly/2zVPTIr)
Pollination of Pear (and Apple) Trees
“Just like apples, pears are predominantly self-sterile and need to be paired with a pollination partner to produce fruit. There are a few partially self-fertile varieties that will crop without a partner, but any crop is much improved with one. Note that ‘Conference‘ and ‘Obelisk‘ are the only varieties that self-pollinate. It is best to ask your nursery which trees are most compatable. In a city, bees are more likely to travel a distance to find another pear tree to pollinate but this is more unlikely in the countryside.” https://bit.ly/2ACBXT
Lucy has been reading about growing raspberries, in the Farmer’s Almanac.
“Raspberries are a bit unsightly and can look bushy, but produce a lot of fruit for a small space. For those of you starting new and with children, there are varieties that have no prickles. There are two main types, those that are summer bearing, growing fruit on last year’s growth, one crop per season and those that are fall bearing (everbearing) producing fruit on the new canes and will produce in the fall and maybe the following summer. A mix of both would produce the biggest harvest. They are self-fertilizing and produce fruit the year after planted. There is a range of types for different climate zones.”
Planting: “Best to plant a one year old plant in the early spring when frost is gone, or in milder zones you can plant in the fall. The more sun the more fruit. The planting site needs rich and well-drained soil, great air circulation, and shelter from wind. Avoid a wet area, as well as a windy spot, as raspberries do not like to stand in water nor totally dry out. Add compost every year. Soak the roots well before planting 18” apart and cut the cane to nine (9)” to encourage fruit.”
Pruning: “The canes live two (2) years and dead canes need to be pruned out annually. Tall varieties may benefit from supports like a trellis or fence. Dig up any suckers that grow well away from the row as they will take away and there will be less fruit production.”
“Prune summer-bearing raspberries immediately after you’re done picking! Cut only the canes that produced berries back down to the ground. Remember this plant produces berries on two year old canes while one year old canes grow right beside them. You shouldn’t have trouble telling which is which: the older canes have brown stems, and the young ones are still green. Prune only the older ones, the ones that have finished their fruitful year.”
“For Pruning fall-bearing raspberries, just cut all canes back the ground in late winter before growth begins in the spring.”
Harvesting: “This is so simple, but best done on a dry day, and the fruit should simply fall off the stem, and you and will be harvesting over 2 week period. Lucy likes to run out in the morning and pick berries to put on her cereal. You can also make raspberry crumble, muffins, pies, sauce or jams. They are a great source of fibre and vitamin C.” https://bit.ly/2zLbLGI
“The most common fruit tree in Canada is the apple tree, and we grow 40 different varieties of the 7500 varieties in the world. Of the 15 varieties grown in Ontario, the top 5 areMcIntosh, Gala, Empire, Red Delicious and Northern Spy.” In an epic apple pie challenge, chef Heidi Fink compared many apples to determine the best ones for pie, and, surprisingly, many apples tasted great, but it was not the ones you would expect that keep their shape once baked. Check this out if you are particular about your apple pie. In Lucy’s house it is traditional McIntosh, like Grandma used.
According to the reading we did at the site Harvest to Table, which has information on growing anything and everything, here are the many things to consider when choosing the right apple tree:
– “size and shape of tree for the space you have
-age of tree, as it can take 4 or more years to bear fruit
-when you would like your fruit to be mature each season-early or late bearing fruit
-does the tree self pollinate or which trees should be planted together
-color of blossoms
-what grows best in your zone or has longest life span
-flavour of fruit for eating (dessert apple), sweet or tart
-do you want a cooking or culinary apple for sauce, cider or baking or
-do you want fruit to store for a long time, or that tastes better with age”
This is a complex decision, but we are so lucky in Canada to have so many choices.
We were interested to learn about growing strawberries and rhubarb, and to our delight and surprise we learned thanks to GardeningKnowHow.com that, not only are they a tasty pairing, but the two plants also grow well together.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) website advises that, “Strawberries can be grown anywhere in Ontario.”
“Growth in our common varieties is affected greatly by temperature and length of the daylight period. In new plants, runner production occurs during the long days and warm temperatures of summer. “
” ‘Everbearing’ and ‘day-neutral’ varieties are less sensitive to temperature and day length than ordinary varieties.”
“Strawberries can be grown in most garden soils. However, they grow best in well-drained, sandy loam soils which are well supplied with organic matter.”
“A good supply of organic matter in the soil is important. Organic matter improves air and water movement, favours growth of helpful soil organisms, provides nutrients, and increases the water-holding capacity of the soil.”
“Wherever possible, plant strawberries in soil which has not grown strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers or eggplants in the past four (4) or five (5) years. This precaution will help avoid serious root diseases such as Verticillium wilt and black root rot.”
“Plant in the spring as soon as the ground can be prepared. This allows plants to become established early and start producing runners. Early-formed runner plants produce more berries than plants formed in late summer and fall.”
“Strawberries are usually grown in the “matted-row” system. Set plants about 60 cm (24 in.) apart in rows which are 90-120 cm (3-4 ft.) apart.”
Care of young plants – Blossom removal
“Remove all blossoms that appear a few weeks after plants are set. (For treatment of everbearers see following pages.) Plants grow better and produce more runner plants when blossoms are removed.”
“Water during dry periods. Wet the soil to a depth of about 15 cm (6 in.) and let it dry out fairly well before watering again.”
“Sawdust or other mulching materials may be placed around the plants in the row to keep down weeds, conserve moisture and keep the fruit clean. This is particularly useful for hill-system plantings. “
Spacing runner plants
“In matted rows, space runner plants about 15 cm (6 in.) apart in the row. A small amount of soil can be placed just behind a runner plant to hold it in place. If plants are crowded they do not yield well, and produce small berries. Also, when plants are crowded, blossoms may not be pollinated well and diseases are usually more troublesome.”
“As mentioned under ‘Growth Cycle’, everbearing varieties have the ability to produce blossoms in the summer for a late-summer and fall crop.”
“Culture of everbearers is almost the same as that described for regular varieties. In the year everbearers are planted, remove all blossoms until about the middle of July. The blossoms that form later will produce a late-summer and fall crop. In the following year, these varieties bear a crop at the regular time in early summer.”
Winter protection – Why needed
“Low winter temperatures injure roots, crowns and flower buds. Also, freezing and thawing of the soil lifts plants and breaks roots. With winter protection, strawberry plants can be grown in any part of Ontario.”
“Cover plants with straw (wheat, oat, rye) in the late fall. Use straw which is free of weed and grain seeds.”
More information on topics such as, care when berries are developing, yields and duration of plantings, novelty methods, varieties, performance ratings of frozen straweberries, diseases and insect control, may be found at the OMAFRA site https://bit.ly/2ZWfyLP.
Growing Perfect Strawberries
Edmonton’s SalisburyGreenhouse.com site offers a wealth of information and tips for home gardeners, include this on growing perfect strawberries.
“Getting the best tasting strawberries starts with planting. Make sure the soil drains freely and is chopped full of rich organic matter. If water pools, or if it’s dustily depleted, enrich with a generous dose of compost or sea soil.”
“If you’re really keen, check the soil’s pH to ensure it’s slightly acidic (between 6-7). Strawberry plants love potash and phosphorous, so sprinkle wood ash and bone meal in while planting.”
“As with herbs, young plants yield the sweetest fruit. While older plants produce more, it’s by replacing quality with quantity. I suggest re-planting perennial strawberries after 3 years; establish 1/3 rotation so you’re never left hungry.”
Readers may learn more about the June bearing, everbearing, and alpine types of strawberries at https://bit.ly/3gGBJeU.
“Rheum rhabarbarum (or Rhubarb) is a perennial vegetable, though it is generally used as a fruit in desserts and jams.”
“Because rhubarb is a perennial, its care is a little different than that of other vegetables. You will want to be sure you are planting rhubarb along the edge of your garden so it doesn’t disturb your other vegetables when it comes up each spring. You should purchase either crowns or divisions from your local garden center. Each of these crowns or divisions will require enough space to come up and provide you with large leaves. This means planting them about 1 to 2 feet (.30 to .60 m.) apart in rows that are 2 to 3 feet (.60 to .91 m.) apart. You can also just plant them on the outside edge of your garden. Each growing rhubarb plant requires about a square yard of space.” Read more at GardeningKnowHow.com, https://bit.ly/2zHOJR3.
The Farmer’s Almanac offers these tips, including links for pie recipes!
“Choose a site that is well-drained, fertile, and preferably in full sunlight. Rhubarb does best where the average temperature falls below 40ºF in the winter and below 75ºF in the summer.
Plant one-year rhubarb crowns in early spring as soon as the ground is workable, when the roots are still dormant and before growth begins or plants are just beginning to leaf out.
Dig large bushel basket-size holes. Space rhubarb plants about 4 feet apart and plant the roots 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the soil.
Be sure to mix compost, rotted manure, or anything high in organic matter in the soil. Rhubarb plants are heavy feeders and need this organic matter. Don’t add a chemical fertilizer when planting rhubarb or during the first year of growth. Direct contact with nitrates can kill your rhubarb plants.
Mulch generously with a heavy layer of straw and cow manure to provide nutrients for the plant, retain moisture, and discourage weeds.
Water your plant well. It needs sufficient moisture during the summer.
Remove seed stalks as soon as they appear.
After the first spring frost, apply a light sprinkling of a high-nitrogen fertilizer (25-3-3 or 10-6-4) when the ground is thawing or has just thawed, so that the fertilizer will go into the ground and not harm the roots.
Do not harvest any stalks during the first growing season so that your plants can become established.
Harvest the stalks when they are 12 to 18 inches long. Usually after 3 years, the harvest period runs 8 to 10 weeks long. If the stalks become thin, stop harvesting; this means the plant’s food reserves are low.”
“Always leave at least two (2) stalks per plant to ensure continued production. You may have a bountiful harvest for up to 20 years without having to replace your rhubarb plants.”
“Red rhubarb varieties, which are more tender, include ‘Valentine’, ‘Crimson Cherry’, and ‘Canada Red’.”
Check the Almanac’s recipe recommendations for Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie; Rhubarb-upside down cake; and Blueberry-rhubarb jam at https://bit.ly/2TZkXOk.
Good “Neigh-berry” Relationships
The Cullen brothers offer tips on hedge berry gardening and promoting positive relations with your next door neighbours.
“A hedge between keeps friendship green,” is among the many quotes attributed to 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. It’s as true today as it was 200 years ago.”
“Now that planting season is here, this is a great weekend to plant a food-producing hedge; these plants are available at most garden centres.”
“The notion of growing a hedge is appealing for several reasons. If you can grow loads of edible berries, it’s an added bonus of nutrition and an opportunity to enhance the hedge friendship with your neighbour with some free food. And with the right plants and care, you can hide unsightly views, create privacy or simply mark off space in your garden or yard that has a specific use — like a vegetable garden or a path. These are our top six picks for edible hedges and screens: