By Christian Messier – Quebec Representative
Major tree planting projects in Quebec cities
In the current context of our changing climate, there is a growing recognition that trees, and more generally urban forests, play a great role in our well-being and health. Indeed, urban trees naturally provide us with many services such as improving air quality, temperature regulation, noise reduction, carbon storage and their presence is closely linked to our physical and mental health. Aware of these public health issues, Quebec cities and municipalities are now devoting particular importance to the health of their urban forests, such that tree-planting initiatives and programs have flourished in recent years. Also, in this fight against global warming, cities and municipalities now rely on a new ally … citizens1!
To this end, non-governmental organizations or private non-profit companies act in concert with public organizations to offer citizens and businesses the opportunity to get involved financially (through donations and sponsorship) or volunteering (actively participating in tree planting) in the greening of their environment. For example, the ”Société de Verdissement du Montréal Métropolitain” (SOVERDI) actively participated in the increase of Montréal’s forest canopy cover by 2.8% between 2011 and 2017 by coordinating tree planting on private land and institutions under the City’s Canopy Action Plan. This ambitious plan aims to increase the City’s canopy cover from 20 to 25% by adding 2,333 ha of forest cover to its territory. Tree Canada is also taking an active part through its Montreal Urban Canopy Project with a goal to plant 50,000 trees in five years on privately-owned lands in Montreal, an effort which will also contribute to the City’s objective.
Another remarkable project, the joint action of the ”Fondation Cowboys Fringants”, the David Suzuki Foundation, the ”Compagnie Larivée Cabot Champagne” and Earth Day Canada, has financed the planting of 375,000 trees, of which 226,583 are already in the ground in the greater Montreal area. These plantations are part of the City’s green and blue infrastructure projects, which aim to create an extensive network of interconnected parks and natural environments to preserve 17% of the territory and to facilitate the movement of organisms among habitat patches2. Furthermore, the project “Demain la forêt”,a successful collaboration between the City of Quebec, the ”Fondation Cowboys Fringants” and Earth Day Canada, has an ambitious goal of increasing forest health and resilience throughout the Quebec region.
Moreover, since trees are natural carbon sinks, more and more programs are being offered to Quebecers to offset their CO2 emissions (e.g., flights, car travel, electricity consumption, purchases of goods, etc.) by planting trees, for example, in the form of carbon credit. These programs propose to convert the amount of GHGs (greenhouse gases) emitted from such activities into the number of trees to plant in order to sequester the same quantity of GHGs, and in this way, compensate for the emissions produced. In Quebec, several carbon offset programs already exist, such as ”Arbre Évolution”, ”Carbone Boréal / UQAC”, ”Compensation CO2 Québec”, Ecotierra or NatureLab.world.3 In addition, the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation have produced a guide on buying carbon offsets.4
Finally, it is also interesting to note that these reforestation initiatives are now trying to put forward a scientific approach in the planning of their tree plantations. To avoid duplicating mistakes from the past, where plantations were selected on the basis of aesthetics, budget or availability, current programs must now focus on the resilience of their future plantations, or in other words, on the diversity of species and biological characteristics (or functional traits) chosen5. The more diversified urban forests become, the more they will be able to resist or adapt to future conditions and thus help us in the fight against climate change.
1Bastin et al. 2019. The global tree restoration potential. Science, 365 (6448) 76-79
3Purchasing carbon offsets – A guide for Canadian consumers, businesses and organizations. Récupéré le 26 août 2009 de https://www.pembina.org/reports/offset-purchase-guide-v3.pdf
4 Équiterre. Geste du mois d’avril 2019 : Mieux comprendre la compensation carbone. Récupéré en avril 2019 de https://equiterre.org/geste/geste-du-mois-davril-2019-mieux-comprendre-la-compensation-carbone
5 Paquette, A. 2016. Repenser le reboisement. Guide stratégique pour augmenter le couvert de la canopée et la résilience de la forêt urbaine de Montréal. Jour de la Terre. https://www.jourdelaterre.org/qc/tous-les-jours/programmes/repenser-le-reboisement/
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