Area forests are under threat

Forest in autumn. Photo by Bob Montgomery.

A Watershed Ecologist with the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority describes forests as essential infrastructure that provide us with clean air and clean water.

Erin Gouthro says because of their deep roots and filtration systems, forests are able to remove pollutants and nutrients and release much cleaner water. She adds, they also provide cultural and recreational benefits and for some people, income. But Gouthro says they are also being threatened by a number of invasive species and topping that list is the Ash Borer that has had a devastating impact on Ash trees over the last few years. She says Ash trees are making a comeback, but it’s too early to say how successful that might be.

“In the seedling layers we have Ash babies and we have Ash adolescents,” Gouthro explained. “So if they get to a certain size, which they appear like we have enough trees on the landscape to do that, the question is will the Ash Borer come back and eat them again.”

Gouthro says climate change has also become a threat to forests and we’ve already seen the damage that drought, flooding and forest fires can cause. But she says stronger winds have also created some problems.

“What we have seen from the 2021 and 2022 data is that wind is a major contributor to disturbances in our bushes. Meaning, it’s just toppling over. So, going forward, we would want to keep looking at that,” she said.

Gouthro said they were recently surveying a maple bush in Minto when it looked like a storm was coming towards them. When they returned the next day, she said several fairly large maple trees had had the tops broken off of them and some of them were toppled right over. The damaged represented about one per cent of the trees in that forest.

Gouthro warns the future isn’t terribly bright. Even if the Ash Borer does not come back, she cautions there are a number of other invasive species at our borders that are going to be threats in the future.