The Descendants of Giants

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In Search of Exemplary Specimens of At Risk Trees in Southern Ontario's Oak Ridges Moraine – A Major Research Paper from Derek May of York University

Prior to settlement by Europeans, southern Ontario was blanketed by dense mixed deciduous forests that had been shaping, and were being shaped by, the landscape for over 10,000 years. Today, over 95% of these once expansive forests have been cleared for agriculture and other forms of development. This extensive clearance and land use alteration has imperiled the continued existence of many of southern Ontario's native tree species. Compounding this predicament has been a long history of over-harvesting the fittest trees in the forest, as well as the more recent introduction and spread of invasive species.

Through my work as a Masters of Environmental Studies student at York University, I surveyed five conservation areas at the western edge of the Oak Ridges Moraine for exemplary specimens of rare or at risk trees. I catalogued the locations of these trees, took basic measurements, and plotted this data on a Google fusion table and map, which can be viewed here.

The purpose of my work was to locate wild, locally-adapted specimens of rare trees to facilitate the collection of their seeds for use in local restoration projects, and more simply to begin to help establish population sizes and locations of rare or at risk tree species. The rationale for this work was a general lack of information on the locations and numbers of rare trees in southern Ontario's conservation areas, as well as the fact that too much modern-day reforestation is taking place with cloned and/or non-local stock. To complete my surveys I walked the major hiking trails of the conservation areas I selected and surveyed the trees within a 10m radius from the trails (which ensured ease of access for seed collectors while minimizing disturbances to forest interiors). 

In essence my work lays out a simple framework for citizen-led forest conservation. If expanded upon, my work could not only give people an idea of the types and numbers of trees present in their local conservation areas, but could provide a starting point for getting individuals and organizations to pool their efforts and expertise into a common, standardized approach to creating rare tree inventories in protected areas.

My paper was included in this years' Faculty of Environmental Studies Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Series, and is available at York University.

Click Here to Download the PDF (8.6mb)

LinkedIn icon Pinterest icon Reddit icon Google icon