From insects and birds to chipmunks and raccoons, living creatures can be found in green spaces throughout Canada’s urban communities. Whether it’s in a park, cemetery, wooded area or private backyard – urban trees and forests provide crucial habitat for wildlife in our cities. 

The fact is, urban forests provide countless benefits for human health and the environment. Exposure to nature reduces stress, speeds healing, and helps improve mental health. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, removing and storing the carbon while releasing clean oxygen back into the air. However, the benefits of urban forests extend beyond human health and the environment as they also greatly benefit wildlife.

The Benefits of Wildlife in Urban Settings

Although you may not love the weekly visit from your neighbourhood racoon or the squirrels that wander into your garden, some wildlife may be native to your region and that may be of value from a conservation lens. Interestingly, one study found that human exposure to wildlife in an urban environment might positively affect that individual’s interest and perception of all wildlife. Furthermore, that improved perception could help protect natural spaces and habitats outside an urban setting.

While the human perception of wildlife and green spaces is important in wildlife conservation efforts, we should also consider the role that trees and urban forests play in protecting urban wildlife, and hopefully, in facilitating a positive view of wildlife by people who live in cities.

Five Ways Trees and Urban Forests Benefit Wildlife

1. Shelter: From insects to birds, all kinds of wildlife use trees as shelter from inclement weather and predators. As you might expect, some trees are better suited for specific types of wildlife because of their natural response – or lack thereof – to changing seasons. For example, because coniferous trees like evergreens don’t lose their needles in the fall, they make good homes for Robin birds seeking shelter from the cold.  

2. Food Source: While some trees and shrubs produce fruits and nuts that are edible to both humans and urban wildlife, others offer food sources, either directly or indirectly, to wildlife exclusively. For example, the oak tree is known to host hundreds of types of caterpillars and produce acorns – both of which might be consumed by birds and some mammals.

3. Migration Rest Stops: Urban forests and green spaces, including tree-lined streets, are important for offering habitat to wildlife while traveling. Migrating birds and other wildlife will seek shelter in urban trees and forests, which often serve as corridors to connect rural areas separated by urban centres or as a place to rest and refuel during migration.

4. Noise Reduction: Many wildlife species seek quiet areas, protected from the urban sounds of humans, local traffic, and passing trains or planes, to build their homes. Fortunately, one of the many benefits of urban trees is their role in reflecting and absorbing sound energy, helping to mitigate noise pollution and create more desirable habitats for urban wildlife.

5. Shade: If you’ve ever paused in the shade of a tree on a hot summer day, you know the feeling of reprieve achieved from the shade. As you might imagine, shade is also enjoyed by wildlife looking to escape the heat of the sun or radiating from the concrete. 

Help Us Grow Better Places to Live for Urban Wildlife

At Tree Canada, we support tree planting in urban communities across the country through our Community Tree Grants. Through these grants, we’re able to help schools, community groups, Indigenous communities and municipalities increase their green infrastructure. Through these planting projects, urban wildlife will also benefit from the shelter, food sources, rest areas, shade and noise protection that the trees will provide for years to come.

Resources:

“How Street Trees Can Save Our Cities.” Open Case Studies, The University of British Columbia, https://cases.open.ubc.ca/how-street-trees-can-save-our-cities/. Accessed 5 Aug. 2022

Perry, Gad, et al. ““Good” and “Bad” Urban Wildlife.” Problematic Wildlife II, 2020, pp. 141–170, 10.1007/978-3-030-42335-3_5. Accessed 14 Jul. 2022.

‌ “Provide Shelter.” Canadian Wildlife Federation, cwf-fcf.org/en/explore/gardening-for-wildlife/how/shelter.html.

Ten Favorite Trees for Wildlife. “Ten Favorite Trees for Wildlife.” The National Wildlife Federation Blog, 21 Apr. 2015, blog.nwf.org/2015/04/ten-favorite-trees-for-wildlife/.