University of Toronto PhD student, Eric Davies, uses Mitacs-Accelerate to discover the huge benefits of planting native trees in urban areas.
Less than half of all tree species now growing in urban areas around the world are native to the local environment. While imported tree species are chosen for aesthetic reasons, it has a huge impact on wildlife.
Native trees are known to support local ecosystems much more effectively, providing a home and food source for local insects and wildlife. But the exact benefit of using native trees has never been studied in Canada.
Through Mitacs-Accelerate, Eric Davies, a PhD candidate from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Forestry, joined Ontario-based arborist firm Treefeed.ca to determine exactly how native versus non-native trees can benefit local ecosystems and wildlife. Working under his academic supervisor, Dr. Sandy Smith, Davies conducted detailed surveys of different tree species.
“The most important thing that trees provide is a habitat for insects and birds which promotes a healthier environment and ecosystem. During the project, I analyzed the number of insects and birds living in native trees and found there to be 25 times more wildlife activity than in non-natives.”
“These insects are extremely important to the health of the overall ecosystem. They act pollinators and biological control agents, helping to manage pests while providing a food source for birds and other wildlife. In some species of non-natives, such as Ginkgo Biloba trees, we found almost no insect activity at all.”
Toronto's 73 Native Species Pool