A group of around 50 volunteers gathered on Mount Royal Wednesday afternoon to plant some 200 trees for the 10th edition of National Tree Day.
The celebration was organized by Tree Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to planting and nurturing trees, in partnership with Les amis de la montagne.
Maple and pine saplings, as well as several other tree species, were planted in the Montreal park to help recolonize the forest.
Over the years, events such as the 1998 ice storm and the spread of the emerald ash borer have created stress on the forest, damaging and killing thousands of trees.
Organizers said Wednesday’s event is a small gesture to bring attention to the crucial role of trees in urban communities.
Dara Larfeuil Peressini, a community adviser for Tree Canada, touted the many environmental benefits of planting trees including cooling down the atmosphere, producing oxygen and storing carbon.
But trees can also provide solace, as many Montrealers have discovered for themselves over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Research cited by Tree Canada shows that a 15-minute walk in the forest is enough to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Larfeuil Peressini said Tree Canada has partnered with the City of Montreal and other non-profits to plant 500,000 trees over the next 10 years.
Tree Canada says that over the last 20 years, the urban forest canopy has seen a sustained decline while more than 80 per cent of the population live in urban centres.
Peressini said the trees will be planted in areas with low tree cover and where they can help fight heat islands.
Urban heat islands refer to when urban areas see warmer temperatures than in surrounding rural areas.
“Many urban areas in Canada, with their high proportion of dark roof and road surfaces, absorb the sun’s rays and radiate it out, heating up both air and surface temperatures,” a report by Health Canada states.
“These warmer temperatures in urban areas can magnify health risks during heat waves.”
Read more: Record-breaking heat wave hits Quebec
Health Canada agrees that planting trees can not only help reduce heat islands but can also have a positive impact on people’s mental and physical health.
“Increasing urban green space reduces outdoor temperatures, while also providing opportunities for social connection, active transportation and physical activity. Increasing vegetation may also specifically benefit some marginalized and lower-income groups living in areas with low tree canopy and high percentages of built surfaces, two of the main contributors to urban heat islands.”
National Tree Day was celebrated in 12 communities across Canada, with volunteers planting 3,000 trees.
— with files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez