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Local forests face threat of invasive species and climate change

October 1, 2020   ·   0 Comments

The 100th Anniversary of National Forest Week was celebrated throughout Canada from September 20-26.

This year’s theme was “Healthy Forests, Healthy Future” and the County of Simcoe encouraged residents to learn more about potential threats to their forests.

The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) Manager of Forests, Rick Grillmayer, said there’s several potential sources of harm for foliage in the region, primarily through climate change and invasive species.

“If you’re looking at forestry from 10,000 feet, those are the big things that crop up in my mind,” he said.

The Emerald Ash Borer, which kills ash trees, is currently chewing its way through the NVCA Watershed at the south end, getting progressively worse to the north.

“That kind of an insect is a concern to forestry because if you remove one species from the landscape the forests become simpler, there are less tree species out there and diversity is always a good thing,” said Grillmayer.

In certain parts of the NVCA Watershed, there’s also been a serious outbreak of Gypsy Moth this summer.

As well, Sudden Oak Death, a disease caused by a fungal-like invasive species, which travels on boots, vehicles or animals, is being monitored.

Invasive species are primarily spread by human activities, often accidentally.

“Humans are good spreaders of things, they move things around a lot, I’ve noticed that when people go about hiking and biking and walking their dogs they often spread seeds from invasive plants,” Grillmayer said.

“We brought a lot of the species here accidentally. I know there’s all kinds of rules about stopping you from moving plants and moving fruit through airports; some people might not agree with that but those rules are in place to try and stop new species from arriving, so for those that like to travel internationally, don’t bring living things, just don’t even think of it.”

Preventing the spread of invasive species is the single most important thing a Simcoe County resident can do for their forests, said Grillmayer.

“Some people will often point to logging or forest management as a problem. I don’t see it that way; I think there’s great benefits to forest management because if you want to build, the most carbon friendly construction material we have is actually wood as opposed to concrete or steel,” he explained.

To expand and promote a healthy environment for the Simcoe County Forest, the NVCA works with farmers and land owners to plant trees.

“We’re on track to planting between 100,000 and 120,000 trees in the coming spring, so every year we work with 20 to 30 different landowners that decide to go that route and grow more trees,” Grillmayer said.

In terms of climate change, as temperatures rise, new species can pop up and invasive species, particularly plants, do well in disturbed environments.

“Things like Dog Strangling Vine and Garlic Mustard that disrupt plant cycles and forests, they really thrive in disturbed eco-systems,” said Grillmayer.

“Climate change is sort of this overall stressor on woodlots that make it easier for these things to spread and wreak havoc as they go about their life cycle.”

A way for the general public to improve the health of their forests is by being more aware of what invasive species look like and reporting them.

“In Toronto, there was an Asian Longhorn Beetle… someone found this bug on the hood of their car and they didn’t know what it was so they took the time to try to figure out what it was and that’s how we discovered an invasive insect and they’ve since controlled that infestation,” Grillmayer explained.

“Instead of spending an hour on Facebook tonight, spend an hour going to Forestry Canada’s website or Forest Ontario, just do a bit of reading that way. Instead of watching cat videos, learn about invasive insects and climate change.”

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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