Michael Petryk arborist
The 2020 Canadian Urban Forestry Conference will focus on building climate resilience in urban forests. Michael Petryk is an arborist and manager of Tree Canada’s Operation Re Leaf program, focused on replanting trees after disaster. According to Petryk, the ability to build resilience is «on diversity and it’s on flexibility. We can’t keep rigid ideas that were either ideas of the past or ideas of what exactly the urban forest must be. If we want to have that resilient urban forest, sometimes it’s got to be planting some of the non-natives as long as you’ve done a lot of studies about them». He adds, «Diversity is a buzzword that’s used so much but it’s just so important in the urban forest because you have pests come through, you have high winds, you have things that affect different trees».
Climate change increases the risk of damage to trees from disasters such as wildfires, pests, hurricanes, tornados, ice storms. Each of these disasters affect both the ecosystem and the humans that depend on the forests. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s guiding document Forestry Responses to Conflict and Disasters, when trees are destroyed, erosion and soil loss takes place, decreasing water quality and impeding agriculture. Forest damage due to disaster also affects people’s livelihoods, from lost food and medicine production to wood products for construction, heating, and cooking.
Alongside the practical effects of disaster on forests, tree loss affects human health. The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), measuring about 8.5 millimetres long, was responsible for the loss of over 100 million ash trees in the United States from 1990-2007. In 2012, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine analyzed the effects of the Emerald Ash Borer on human health, finding that across the fifteen states in the study area, the borer was associated with an additional 6,113 deaths related to illness of the lower respiratory system, and 15,080 cardiovascular-related deaths.