Contest highlights the importance of mature trees

Last updated on Aug 31, 23

Posted on Aug 31, 23

2 min read

Reep Green Solutions and the Tree Trust organization are hosting a Tree of the Year competition pitting some of the region’s most majestic trees against each other.

The trees in the competition were selected based on size and age, species, ecosystem services provided, and cultural impact or history surrounding them.

Aaron Boonstra, the tree operations coordinator with Reep Green Solutions, stands under the mature elm tree discovered during the restoration of the Elmira Nature Reserve last year. The tree was nominated as a competitor in this year’s Tree of the Year program. [Leah Gerber]

“I think it’s been a really positive response,” said Aaron Boonstra, the tree operations coordinator with Reep. “I don’t think we’re choosing trees that people don’t necessarily know about; these are some of the most eye-grabbing trees in the region. I think it’s really fascinating to see how people do know these trees and they look up to them and they respect them and they want to advocate for them.”

Boonstra says the main objective of the project is to help people start to look at the mature trees in their neighbourhood in a new light.

“It’s really important to understand that mature trees especially are really under threat from a variety of factors. Whether it’s development, climate change bringing in more severe storms, invasive pests. Trees are a really valuable piece of green infrastructure that needs to be maintained just like roofs and roads, and other pieces of infrastructure. We’re trying to encourage people to look at the trees that they have, and think about the value that they bring to their community or to their property.”

He said that one legacy tree provides the same ecosystem services of about 250 saplings, including storing carbon and regulating water flow to help stop flooding.

The five trees selected are in Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, Wilmot and one is located in Elmira.

The Elmira tree is an old elm discovered during the restoration of the Elmira Nature Reserve last year.

Boonstra says mature elms are particularly notable because the species has been largely eradicated due to the invasive Dutch elm disease, though some trees are showing some signs of resistance to it.

Mark Schwarz and Inga Rinne of Trees for Woolwich nominated the elm. Schwarz said they nominated it because it is, “representative of the many larger elms now starting to be visible as they make their comeback from Dutch elm disease.”

Schwarz says the tree is one of three found on the reserve that are nicknamed The Three Sisters. “Three elms of similar age that emerged after 13 acres of invasive buckthorn was eradicated. The Elder Brother is a standalone elm about half a kilometre away,” he said.

A panel of experts in the field met to select the Tree of the Year, and the winner will be announced August 31 on Reep’s social media platforms. The winning tree wins a health assessment from a Tree Trust expert.

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