The decline of trees and how you can help

Park board tree sale
WATCH:Thousands of gardeners in Vancouver are taking advantage of the great weather and planting today. Twenty-two different varieties of deep discounted trees were up for sale this morning, and it's all part of the city's campaign to boost the urban tree canopy. Kristen Robinson reports.

Lilacs, magnolias, and maples. Those are just a few of the 22 varieties being offered at a discount as Vancouver Tree Week kicks off at Hillcrest Community Centre.

It’s part of a city program aimed at boosting Vancouver’s green canopy, which is declining in the wake of development. Hundreds of locals showed up throughout the day to snap up thousands of trees for their private property. Customers could take away a maximum of three trees per family for $10 each.

READ MORE: Park Board wants Vancouverites to invest in trees

“The urban canopy is really the lungs of our city,” said John Coupar, the Vancouver Park Board Commissioner. “We have seen a decline and we’re working on increasing those numbers.”

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Trees on the decline

Coupars says 18 per cent of Vancouver is currently covered by tree canopy, down from 22 per cent in 1995. Despite the West Coast’s green reputation, that’s even less than the City of Toronto where their tree canopy is estimated to be between 26.6 and 28 per cent.

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“It’s so good to see the City encouraging people to take home trees,” said Michael Rosen from Tree Canada, a non-profit charitable organization that promotes the planting and nurturing of trees in Canada.

Rosen praises the city’s initiative as effective since “60 to 80 per cent of the trees in the city in Canada are actually going to be owned privately.”

Municipalities that spend money to encourage people to plant on private land, Rosen adds, is the best way to add green in urban areas.

Canada is not a rural nation anymore. Eighty-two per cent of Canadians live in cities and urban areas, says Rosen, who believes trees in the city are some of the most important throughout the country.

Why trees are important

Rosen say trees are not just aesthetically pleasing, they can also benefit cities on an economic level and improve overall mental well-being.

“So many studies that prove that there are a lot more benefits trees provide to people in making them calm,” he said.

Other than the obvious environmental benefits like providing oxygen, tree leaves and needles in Conifer trees stop a lot of pollutants in the air stream by “knocking them down to the ground,” says Rosen.

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Why trees are declining

Increased densification, invasive insects and the effects of climate change —  like last year’s summer drought in B.C., and Stanley Park’s devastating windstorm in 2006, which flattened thousands of trees —  all contribute to the decline.

READ MORE: Areas of Southern B.C. move to Level 4 drought rating

Rosen hopes developers will do more to protect trees during construction, not just after the fact.

“It does add a cost to construction. That’s one area I’d like to work with the development industry more is techniques around protecting trees during development,” said Rosen.