By Thom Snowman
Among the many benefits provided by Ontario woodlots is the protection and production of water. While 60–65% of the province’s population draws artificially treated water from the Great Lakes or major rivers, the remainder relies on other surface waters or groundwater supplies that are at least partially kept clean by the 66% of Ontario that is forested. While provincial statistics show that 90% of the forest is in public parks or Crown land, there are 170,000 private woodlot owners who pay property taxes, yet provide protection for drinking water without compensation for that service. Drinkable water is an increasingly valuable commodity, produced for free by forests, yet very expensive to produce through artificial filtering and treatment.
The following article is a brief description of how forests do this and why this function of our private woodlots should be valued more directly.
Fall along a forested stream.
Water arrives in the watersheds that supply cities, towns and individual homes in Ontario as precipitation in all of its forms, in annual amounts averaging 890 mm of rain. It leaves these watersheds, to enter drinking water supplies, after traveling a path ranging from direct to tortuous, through land cover ranging from pavement to dense forest, and after a time period ranging from minutes to years. In a forested watershed, the erosive energy of even the most driving rainfall is absorbed, and pollutants are purged by the relatively long path and time frame from precipitation to the outlet. The erosion of sediments and nutrients is minimized and high-quality raw water is delivered to receiving surface and groundwater sources. There simply is no other watershed cover or land use that exceeds the purifying, protective value of forests for drinking water supplies. A forest provides water treatment at all scales, from the individual tree to the relatively homogeneous forest stand to the more diversely structured forested watershed.
An individual tree captures and slows precipitation through passive interception and evaporation and active transpiration (collectively, evapotranspiration or ET). While many factors determine ET rates, a mature, open-grown deciduous tree may have in excess of 200,000 leaves, which on a summer day can transpire as much as 3,400 litres of water.1 In hydrological terms, water that is not consumed by ET moves through forests as subsurface flow, during which it is filtered both mechanically and chemically, or, much more rarely, as overland flow, when the soil is either frozen or saturated. By reducing soil saturation, ET limits overland flow and the associated transport of nutrients and sediments. While the deep organic soils of the forest represent the actual “filter” in this system, individual trees a) anchor the soil; b) produce soil macro pores as roots penetrate and die, increasing water infiltration; c) capture and utilize inorganic nutrients in the soil water as the basis for growth and metabolism; d) deliver organic materials (leaves, twigs) to the forest floor, reducing the erosive impact of rain; e) provide shade that regulates the pace of decomposition and the temperature of streams; and f) produce seeds that germinate in the soil and enable the forest to regenerate and recover from disturbances. In addition, trees process pollutants directly in a variety of beneficial ways. Some airborne pollutants are simply trapped on the surfaces of the tree, removing them from the air and stalling their entry into released waters. Biochemical reduction by plants (the basis of “bioremediation”) is a varied and complex combination of processes that further neutralizes pollutants.2 As long as pollutant levels are not toxic to the trees, these tree-level processes continuously cleanse the water that passes through the forest and its soils.
Early morning by a mid-forest vernal pool.
A forest stand protects water supplies through the multiplication of the effects of individual trees and understory plants, but also provides collective effects that go beyond those of individual plants. When an individual tree in a stand begins to decline, leaf area, transpiration, root penetration, growth and nutrient uptake, shade and eventually seed production are all reduced. This process may result from simple stem exclusion, through which an initial stand of perhaps a million seedlings per acre is reduced by competition to a mature forest of 100–200 trees. Or it may result from a large array of defoliators, fungi, or viruses, or from injuries following wind or ice storms. Regardless of the cause of tree decline, the influence of a forest stand is that the living, thriving trees surrounding a tree in decline will capture and utilize the surplus resources, including sunlight, water and nutrients, and the result for water quality is uninterrupted protection; the system persists even as its components are recycled. Furthermore, the diverse, interchangeable seed sources in a mixed stand maintain a regeneration response even in the event of a species-focused disturbance. When a disturbance eliminates groups of trees, the rapid regeneration of the openings by the surrounding stand again maintains the protective effects of the soil and forest vegetation on water quality.
The quantity of water leaving a forested area (yield) is affected by stand types. Stands dominated by evergreen conifers generally reduce annual water yield below that produced by stands of deciduous trees on similar sites, primarily because evergreens continue transpiring throughout the year and because they intercept a higher percentage of snowfall, a portion of which either melts and evaporates or directly sublimates. The quality of the water leaving a forest, in particular its nutrient content, may be affected by the stand age. Young, established stands of any species mix are accumulating biomass more rapidly than older, maturing stands, and therefore assimilating available nutrients more aggressively, which keeps them out of the water.3,4 As expected, this demand is highest during the growing season, which is reflected in the seasonal patterns of nutrient flux in streams. The capacity for nutrient capture may decline as trees and stands mature, but as openings are created through management or natural tree death, the forest rapidly refills these with young, nutrient-hungry seedlings that quickly restore the uptake of available nutrients.
After a storm on Quabbin Reservoir Massachusetts.
The forested watershed accumulates the effects of individual trees and forest stands to provide highly resilient protection for drinking water supplies. The natural range of seed sources, topographic positions, water regimes, aspects, soil types and bedrock composition conspire to maintain a diversity of stand types, while the range of disturbances maintains age diversity. The combination builds ecosystem inertia that maintains forest cover. While some disturbances may temporarily overwhelm the controlling influence of even a diverse watershed forest (e.g., hot crown fires following severe droughts or catastrophic wind events or ice storms), disturbed forests are quick to recover biotic control of stand level nutrient mobility.5 The inherent species diversity across a forested watershed provides a level of redundancy in the living, green filter that rivals the most responsibly engineered water treatment plant. The diverse age structure in the watershed forest, like diversity in an investment portfolio, yields more consistent performance through the vagaries of climate fluctuations, wind, snow and ice, intense rainfall, and damaging native and alien pests than a forest (or an artificial filter) built to a single design. The range in structural and species compositions together represent built-in multiple barriers, providing a forest biofilter that functions continuously, without pause, and does so on free solar energy.
So, how much forest-filtered water does a hectare of woodlot in Ontario provide? Given annual rainfall of 890 mm, each hectare receives 0.89 m x 10,000 m2 = ~8,900 cubic metres (8.9 million litres) of water annually. The forest typically uses, through evapotranspiration, approximately 50% of annual rainfall. Therefore, about 4,450 cubic metres of water flows out of a forested hectare annually, almost as much as 50 people use in a year in Ontario. (We each use ~250 litres daily). Even if water sources are taken for granted, Ontario residents place a significant dollar value on water. In Toronto, drinking water costs residents $3.20 per cubic metre, and Ottawa charges $1.70 per cubic metre. So the municipal retail value of the water delivered by one hectare of forested land is in the range of $7,500 to $15,000 per year. Although further treatment costs may be required to meet drinking water standards, the raw water leaving a forest is remarkably clean and therefore relatively cheap to finish.
Large wetland in late spring.
Ontario woodlots provide water supply protection without the burden of infrastructure or routine recalibration or power costs, but compensation for this benefit is absent, taken for granted downstream. Yet woodlot owners are faced with both annual taxation and ever-increasing pressures to convert forestland to other purposes, some of which are lucrative but all of which will compromise the water supply protection provided by a forest and sacrifice the values placed on owning woodland. If the hydrological connection between a private woodland and a municipal drinking water supply can be established, perhaps a “water protection” rate for property taxes could be gained in exchange for a long-term commitment to maintaining forests as forests.
Thom is retired after 26 years as a Forester on the 100,000 acres (40,500
hectares) of actively managed oak and pine forests that protect Boston’s drinking water, a forest-filtered system that serves 2.2 million customers.
Wildflowers: the gems of Ontario’s woodlots
By Jenny McCune, University of Guelph
Woodlots are treasure troves of wildflowers. Over the past two summers, I’ve had the pleasure of doing plant surveys in over 100 private woodlots in southern Ontario. Many woodlot owners are surprised to find out about the number of different species growing in their woodlot. In a one-hectare (2.5-acre) area, my assistants and I have recorded anywhere between 27 and 160 different species of plants, including trees, shrubs and herbs.
The reason I’ve been doing all these surveys is to look for some of the rare forest wildflowers of Ontario. There are about 200 rare plants that grow in woodlots in southern Ontario. Not all of these are endangered, but all of them grow in 80 or fewer known locations in the entire province. However, it could be that some of them are doing better than we think, because they’re growing happily in private woodlots that haven’t been visited by botanists.
I have been using a computer program to predict potential locations of rare forest plants, based on soil type, elevation and climate, and then visiting some of those places to see if the plant is there. In the process, I want to get the word out to landowners. If you have a woodlot, you may have some of Ontario’s plant gems. Here are just a few of our common and not-so-common forest species:
Doll’s-eyes or white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) is a common plant in our deciduous forests. It is easy to recognize in the late summer and fall due to its bright white berries. Don’t eat them though! They are poisonous.
Rue-anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) has a bright white flower and blooms in the early spring. It is not listed as endangered or threatened, but there are fewer than 80 places in the far south of Ontario where it is known to grow.
Some people call this wildflower “stinkweed” because it has a strong smell when crushed. It is actually a type of geranium, with the scientific name Geranium robertianum. This little plant is tolerant of trampling and disturbance, growing along trails, in rock crevices and even as a weed in flower beds.
If you have a woodlot along the Niagara escarpment, with lots of exposed rock, you may have the hart’s-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium). In some forests along the escarpment in Grey County it is quite common, and landowners there find it hard to believe it is considered rare! But Ontario has 94% of all the hart’s-tongue ferns in the world, so if we don’t protect it here, it will be in big trouble.
The helleborine orchid (Epipactis helleborine) is a species from Europe that has been doing extremely well here in Canada. It never takes over like garlic mustard can, but you can almost always find a few of these little orchids growing in any shady forest in southern Ontario. It was first recorded in North America in New York State in 1879.
The tiny ram’s head lady’s slipper (Cypripedium arietinum) is a rare native orchid. If you have a sparse cedar forest on shallow soil over limestone, or perhaps a deciduous forest over sandy dunes near Lake Huron or Georgian Bay, you may have ram’s head. It can also grow in forested swamps.
Fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) likes it a bit wet, and grows near streams or at the edges of swamps. The plant has five yellow petals that are pointed at the tips and tend to nod slightly.
The green dragon (Arisaema dracontium) is a cousin of the jack-in-the-pulpit. Both have bright red berries, but the green dragon has five to seven or more leaflets, while the jack-in-the-pulpit has only three. Like the fringed loosestrife, green dragon likes to grow in moist floodplain forests along rivers and streams.
Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) is a common plant in deciduous forests. It grows on sandy soils, but also on hummocks in swampy areas. The bright red berries and small shiny leaves make it easy to recognize.
I think spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) should be called striped wintergreen, because it has evergreen leaves with white stripes. It is only found in a few open forests on sandy soils in Norfolk County – although it used to be found at one site near Wasaga Beach. It likes shade, but not too much. I have found it in open pine forests, often growing with bracken fern nearby. It is often under five inches tall, so it is very easy to miss!
Remarks by Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry at the OWA Annual General Meeting on April 29, 2017
By Deputy Minister Bill Thornton
Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Bill Thornton at the OWA AGM on April 29, 2017 Photo by Peter Hill
I appreciate your invitation and welcome the opportunity to speak at your AGM. Let me say that I am aware of the great work that the OWA does on behalf of the owners of Ontario’s privately owned forests, and I congratulate you on your 25th anniversary. Since your association’s establishment in 1992, you have worked tirelessly to ensure that our private forests continue to contribute to the health of the province’s environment, economy and society.
As a grassroots organization, you have taken an active role in helping all woodlot owners address local needs and conditions. Our two organizations have a shared interest in sustainable forest management, and my ministry is pleased to support the wide range of field events that you hold each year to promote sustainability among forest owners.
Your association’s commitment to working with partners is also appreciated. I know that you partner with Forests Ontario, the Ontario Professional Foresters Association and other groups.
I would also like to recognize the important advocacy work done by the OWA. By providing a voice for private woodlands and participating in a constructive and positive way in a wide range of reviews and consultations, you have been instrumental in ensuring your members’ interests are considered.
Our forests are important not just for the timber and wood products they provide, but also for the many ecological roles they play. Forests are increasingly seen as green infrastructure. However, these are challenging times for both Crown and privately owned forests.
While some challenges are unique to the private woodlots found primarily in southern Ontario, others are common to forests in general.
⦁ Climate change is top of mind for many of us and is a key consideration for forest management today. It will remain so for the foreseeable future. It is leading to milder, drier conditions, which in turn can help the spread of forest pests — both invasive and non-invasive. Such conditions could also lead to larger, more frequent forest fires, changes in the distribution of tree species, and serious effects on other vegetation as well as wildlife. What can forest owners, big and small, do to help mitigate the effects of climate change?
⦁ Another challenge is the continued threat to Ontario’s economy and environment posed by invasive species. Emerald ash borer and beech bark disease continue to affect Ontario’s forests, particularly in southern and central Ontario. Our forests are also at risk from invasion by oak wilt, and from the mountain pine beetle infestation that is working its way from western Canada toward central Canada.
⦁ Competing uses for land and pressures on southern Ontario’s forests are an ongoing concern. What can we do to protect forested lands as our communities continue to grow?
⦁ And finally — how are the markets for wood products doing right now, and is there something we can do to strengthen them?
Let me share what we are doing to help meet some of these challenges and touch on ways that we can work together to address them.
Mitigating Climate Change
While it is true that climate change affects forests, it is also true that sustainably managed forests can help mitigate the effects of climate change. A healthy forest tends to be a resilient forest.
Sustainable forest management continues to play an important role as national and sub-national governments, like Ontario, confront the global challenge of climate change.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is engaged in a wide range of activities on this issue. Our researchers have published and supported over 400 reports and scientific publications to increase our understanding of climate change and its effects on natural resources. And we are working with partners and stakeholders to monitor conditions in some woodlands in the south.
We posted a discussion paper on forest carbon policy options in the fall for review and comment, and we will use the input from your members to inform our approach going forward.
The way Ontario’s forests are managed influences the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere and stored in trees and harvested wood products. Understanding the potential for managed forests to store more carbon and developing policy approaches to consider this in forest management practices, will contribute to the Government’s objective of mitigating climate change impacts.
In January, we issued Naturally Resilient, our ministry’s draft natural resource climate adaptation strategy, for review and comment.
Ministry staff are seeing the impact of climate change in and on their work, and this strategy sets out how the ministry plans to continue to adapt to this new reality. Every day our staff must adapt their thinking to adjust for the effects of climate change. Our wildlife biologists have postponed the start of the moose hunt to reflect a delay in the moose rut that is attributed to warmer falls. Our forest fire managers are bringing forward new wildland fire management strategies, especially in the northernmost parts of the province where climate change impacts are expected to be the greatest. Our engineers are considering new standards for water crossings and dams to reflect more severe weather events. And our foresters are asking how we can better match genetic seed sources of the trees used in plantations to ensure they can survive in a changing climate.
Harvested wood products from our sustainably managed forests play an important role in mitigating climate change. That’s why we have been working with a number of partners to develop a guide to be used by builders, developers and municipalities to help promote the construction of mass timber buildings over six storeys high. These timber buildings have a much smaller carbon footprint than traditional taller buildings made from steel and concrete, and they support increased economic opportunities in communities that produce these sustainable building materials.
A workshop was held at the end of March to discuss the tall-wood guide and to consider how we can begin promoting it. The formal release of the guide is scheduled for this spring. All of this effort is building on the good response we have had on the building code changes, implemented in January 2015, that allow wood-frame construction in buildings of up to six storeys.
50 Million Tree Program
Afforestation is a tremendous tool in mitigating the effects of climate change. That is where Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program comes in. As you know, the Ontario government launched the program in 2008 to expand forest cover on private lands in the province. The goal is to plant 50 million trees by 2025. This action alone will sequester 6.6 million tons of carbon by 2050.
Forests Ontario delivers this program on the province’s behalf, and I am pleased to say that we are almost halfway to our goal. More than 4,000 landowners have participated, planting more than 22.5 million trees and creating approximately 12,000 hectares of new forest.
As a key commitment under Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan, two million of the 50 million trees will be planted within the boundaries of urban municipalities. Currently, under the program, about three million trees are planted in Ontario each year. This year, however, we are doing something extra.
Green Leaf Challenge
Earlier this year, Ontario launched the Green Leaf Challenge. In honour of Ontario’s 150th anniversary, we are challenging people to match the trees planted under the 50 Million Tree Program this year, one-to-one.
We are calling on all Ontarians to participate: property owners, participants in community tree planting events, and people who want to donate to have a tree planted by someone else. So if we can plant three million trees this year through the 50 Million Tree Program, we want Ontarians to plant three million more.
Forests Ontario has a tree counter online where Ontarians can report how many trees they’ve planted. There, they’ll also be able to learn about any local tree planting opportunities near their community and how to donate to the cause through Forests Ontario.
I encourage you to help us spread the word about the Green Leaf Challenge in your communities during this year’s planting season. As you know, tree planting efforts — both large and small — contribute to the fight against climate change.
Invasive species continue to cause significant negative impacts to our natural environment, in addition to socioeconomic impacts within Ontario, across Canada and internationally. Globally, costs to the environment, agriculture and communities due to invasive species are estimated to be $1.4 trillion — the equivalent of five percent of the global economy and seven times the cost of natural disasters. It is difficult to estimate the total cost of invasive species prevention, management, mitigation and research in Ontario. However, the City of Toronto alone estimates that it spent at least $37 million over a five-year period to cut and replace city-owned trees killed by emerald ash borer.
As a member of the Forest Pest Working Group under the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, Ontario continues to work with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Forest Service to improve both the survey and control methodologies for invasive forest pests.
After an invasive species becomes established, it is extremely difficult to remove and causes lasting damage to our ecosystem. Therefore, Ontario, along with our partners and neighbours, is working to prevent new invasive species from entering and becoming established in our province. The new Invasive Species Act supports these objectives by providing tools to enable prevention, detection, management and eradication of regulated invasive species. That is why Ontario created this Act, the first of its kind in Canada, to give us the tools to fight these invaders.
We also worked with the federal government to establish the Invasive Species Centre in Sault Ste. Marie. Since its creation in 2011, the Invasive Species Centre has received over $10 million from Ontario to support research, to increase awareness and to improve collaboration amongst agencies tasked with managing invasive species.
In addition, we have been working with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters for 25 years and provide annual support to deliver the Invading Species Awareness Program to track invasive species sightings and provide public education and outreach. And we encourage all Ontarians to learn how to stop the spread and keep invaders out by visiting our website and our partners’ websites: Ontario.ca/invasionON.
Forest Information and Health
It is important to note that our efforts to combat invasive species are part of a broader focus on forest health. We have a long-standing program of monitoring and reporting on forest health across the province. This includes the work of staff on the ground, as well as aerial surveys.
As a ministry, we have a long history of providing forestry guidance to landowners and forest managers. Through our publications, such as our Silviculture Guide to Managing Southern Ontario Forests, we offer the most up-to-date scientific and technical information on growing and cultivating trees. The ministry is currently working on an addition to this guide that will cover afforestation and plantation management. Our other forest management guides cover topics such as conserving biodiversity and protecting wildlife habitat, watersheds, cultural heritage and recreation. And there are already links to our existing publications on your association’s website.
We appreciate the work you do to share the ministry’s guidelines and expertise. We are committed to ensuring that you have the guidance you need to manage your woodlots sustainably.
Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program
One of the most direct ways we have to influence landowners with woodlots is through the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program. The goal of the program is to bring greater fairness to the property tax system by valuing forestland according to its current use. The program is designed to increase landowner awareness about forest stewardship.
Since its establishment, it has continued to have a very positive influence on the province’s landowners. I understand that there are more than 17,000 landowners participating in the program, conserving and protecting over 750,000 hectares of forests.
Landowners in this program can benefit from a tax reduction, while the province benefits from their commitment to sustainable forest management. It is a win-win proposition for landowners and the province, although I do recognize the lost revenue it presents to many municipalities from reductions in property taxes.
Co-ordinated Plan Review
It is also clear that good policies can play a key role in protecting forests. The Ontario government is nearing the completion of its Co-ordinated Review of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, and the Niagara Escarpment Plan.
These four plans work together to build complete communities, manage growth, curb sprawl, protect the natural environment and support economic development. The proposed revisions to the plans flowing out of the Co-ordinated Plan Review have benefited from the input of over 3,000 people who attended town-hall meetings and the more than 19,000 submissions made to it, including that made by your association.
In addition to allowing communities to continue growing in ways that attract jobs and investments, create vibrant urban centres and strong rural communities, the changes being considered would also minimize impacts of urban growth on productive farmland, heritage buildings, green spaces and important natural areas. We think that the revised plans will help us to do a better job of protecting our natural environment, including woodlands and wetlands. Our commitment to monitoring will help us determine the success of these efforts.
Wood Promotion and Innovation
In terms of wood products and the markets for our wood, our ministry is doing its part to promote innovation and wood use. In the past five years, the ministry has provided over $3 million in funding to FPInnovations and a further $1.75 million to the Canadian Wood Council’s WoodWorks program to support innovation in our forest sector.
And Ontario continues its efforts to promote Ontario’s forest products and sustainable forest management practices both domestically and internationally. One such initiative was the agreement Ontario signed with Quebec to keep working together on priority matters for the two provinces. These priorities include promoting sustainable forest management practices to support international trade in forest products and responsible approaches for the protection of species at risk.
Ontario’s strong framework for sustainable forest management is a key selling point for our forest products. It’s the kind of brand value that markets are looking for today, as buyers consider sustainability when making their purchases. To communicate that value to local consumers, the ministry continues to invest in the Ontario Wood brand. The brand helps consumers to identify and purchase wood and wood products made in our province from sustainably managed Ontario forests. The Ontario Wood brand was launched in 2011 and has attracted 306 partners to date. We’re also proud that your association is a supporter of this brand, too.
As many of you know, on April 24, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it planned to impose countervailing duties on shipments of softwood lumber from Canada into the U.S. Duties of nearly 20% will apply to most companies in Ontario, effective April 28, and they will be retroactively applied 90 days as well. This is of grave concern to Ontario and our industry.
Negotiating trade deals is the responsibility of the federal government. However, Ontario is providing advice and feedback to the federal government and consulting regularly with industry stakeholders in our efforts to maintain access to the U.S. lumber market.
The U.S. relies on Canada to supply nearly one-third of its demand for softwood lumber, and they place these duties on Canadian companies in order to benefit American sawmills at the expense of American consumers. It’s estimated that nearly a half million American families are unable to afford a new home due to the price increase caused by these duties.
Minister Kathryn McGarry joined her Quebec counterpart in calling on the federal government to create a loan guarantee program to protect forestry companies across Canada. This program would help support the industry — and hundreds of communities in Ontario that depend on it — during a period of economic uncertainty. She has also applauded the efforts of her federal counterpart, the Honourable Jim Carr, in establishing a Federal–Provincial Task Force on Softwood Lumber.
Meetings are ongoing with representatives from Ontario’s forest sector to ensure their concerns are heard during the federal trade discussions. Fair and open trade benefits both Canada and the U.S. and consumers on both sides of the border. Ontario will continue to fight to maintain access to the U.S. market for our lumber producers. Negotiating a new agreement continues to be a priority for Ontario, and I know it is also top of mind for our forest industry.
In conclusion, managing a forest, and managing it sustainably, is not easy. We appreciate the work you do and the contribution you make to our economy and to our environment. Thank you for the advice and support you show our ministry. We don’t take it for granted.
The OWA is considered an important partner in managing and sustaining our natural resources.
Redheaded Pine Sawfly Neodiprion Lecontei
The redheaded pine sawfly is a common and natural forest pest of red pine forests in Ontario. It can cause serious havoc in young red pine plantations, many of which are located on private land and have received a significant amount of investment on behalf of landowners. Red pine is selected for planting since it is easy to establish in an open field environment and can be effectively managed through a series of plantation thinnings for forest products, such as decking lumber and hydro poles.
Dog-strangling vine in Ontario: Caterpillars to the rescue!
By Naomi Cappuccino, Carleton University
Dog-strangling vine (DSV), also known as pale swallow-wort, was introduced from Europe in the late 1800s. DSV has become a highly invasive weed in the Ottawa Valley, Toronto area and elsewhere in eastern North America. DSV is native to the grasslands of European Russia and Ukraine. Although it is a rare species in its homeland, in North America it forms extensive, dense mats of intertwined stems that choke out other vegetation. It thrives in a variety of habitats including hedgerows, fields and woodlots. Once it has invaded an area, it is extremely difficult to eradicate.
By Peter Hill, Haldimand Chapter
Our little heaven is in Haldimand County, Carolinian Canada country! It’s long and narrow and of the 80+ acres (I still haven’t converted to hectares), some 30 acres at the southern end is wooded. It’s a nice mix of hardwood species with some conifers thrown in. It has vernal pools, wetland and a slightly rolling nature. On the east side it is adjacent to our neighbour’s large 20-year-old white pine plantation, and the total interconnected forest through several properties must run to over 300 acres.
We don’t live on the property – it is some 35 km away from where we live – so it is not easy to regularly monitor what is going on. But our family enjoys spending time in the woods, listening to thesilence nature provides in the middle of a concession and having a BBQ/picnic.
Nine years ago, in 2005, our Haldimand chapter members organized a plant at our place, and on the last week of April we machine planted several thousand seedlings in the 10-acre meadow to the north of the existing forest. Unfortunately, in that year, it was the weekend on which a six-week drought started, and we lost all the trees with the exception of some 20 tenacious white pines.
One of the problems in our part of Haldimand is the notorious Haldimand clay soil. It is heavy, dense and like adobe brick when dry. I dare say that you could use a clod of it to hammer a nail into a board. Had the soil been more loamy, it might have continued to hold the much-needed moisture during this dry spell. But it isn’t loam and it didn’t.
The loss of all these trees which involved so much effort and cooperative spirit among our chapter’s members took a great mental toll; I was so dispirited that I didn’t even think of trying again until last year, when Paul Robertson of the Niagara chapter listened to my story and suggested a replant.
This brings me to the value of belonging to the OWA. I have been involved with the Haldimand chapter, officially called the Haldimand & Area Woodlot Owners’ Association, from its start in 1997. I have been active on its board of directors, and this involvement has given me a wealth of knowledge and a load of experiences that have enriched my life. I have met inspiring people, like Paul, and visited places I would never have been to and have enjoyed the company of others who have similar interests. None of this would have happened if I had merely paid my annual fee and gone my own way without involving myself.
Anyway, back to the planting. Paul, who is a professional forester and owner of Trees Unlimited, took a look at the meadow which we had planted before and reported that there was a very large common buckthorn infestation which had to be removed as soon as possible and prior to any planting ideas I had. We wrote up a contract, and he and his associates started work in the spring of 2014.
The buckthorn had grown quite high. I might have caught it much earlier if I had ventured farther into the meadow over the years, but our activities were largely confined to the woodlot itself.
You can see by the height of the people in the photo that some buckthorn had grown to over 10 feet. A chainsaw was used to cut the buckthorn down at ground level, and then a potent herbicide, Garlon, was sprayed on the cut. Very little was needed to achieve dieback.
The tops had to be removed, and they were piled high in the centre of the meadow in a large temporarily flooded swale. The plan was to burn this later in the season. This removal process took a full day to complete.
Dan Romanoski, a member of our chapter, did the work with a tractor that was equipped with a front end loader and a bush hog attached on the rear end. The bush hog was used to clear some of the lesser vegetation in preparation for the plant.
Later, in May, the tree-planting crew arrived with their load of 5,600 seedlings. By this time, the huge pile of tops from the buckthorn had diminished and the spring flooding had receded, leaving a clear area to plant. As well, the treated basal areas of the buckthorn had started to degrade. The dark rims around the edges can be seen in the photo.
Again, it took a full day to plant the meadow, and the progress can be seen in the photos of the activity. The meadow is clear, and several lines of flags were paced out to guide the tractor operator to follow straight lines.
The seedlings were sorted by species and selected for planting as the terrain dictated: some species in the lower areas and others in the higher areas.
Of course, it is important to follow up on plantings to check on progress and problems. One of the problems we had had was that of ATV riders crossing the meadow. So we wrote a letter to all our neighbours indicating that we had just planted the field and that we’d appreciate their cooperation in not travelling over it. I am glad to say that we no longer have that problem, and we are thankful to our neighbours for their cooperation. Now all we need is similar help from the deer and voles not feeding on the seedlings this coming winter!
A check-up in mid-July saw the seedlings in good shape with a high survival rate – Paul’s estimate is 96 percent. I have made recent surveys (September and October), and everything seems to be in order.
All in all, this has been an interesting and valuable experience, with the weather cooperating by providing rain when needed over the summer. So the prognosis is good, but the story is not over, for I hope that the first winter is just as kind to the seedlings as the summer was.
One of the signs that spring has finally arrived is the melting of snow and the emerging green growth that begins to poke through the forest floor. The ostrich fern Matteuccia struthiopteris is one of spring’s early risers. Named after the Ancient Greek struthio meaning ostrich and pterion meaning wing, the common and scientific names refer to the large, feather-like shape of the fern. The curled crosiers that emerge in the spring are fittingly called fiddleheads.
Prior to massive European-style agricultural development, the most productive lands in east-central Ontario were rich deciduous forests. Oaks, butternuts, beech, hickories, black walnuts, chestnuts and hazels were common and were often substantial food resources for many forest dwellers. However, modern Ontarians praise their forests mostly for white pine and sugar maple and have forgotten or do not know all the rest of the remarkable species rarely seen on woodlots and in provincial parks. They almost disappeared from our landscapes and may become extinct if we do not boost the propagation potential of remaining populations or even individual majestic nut-bearing trees.
Wetlands are lands that are saturated with water long enough to cause the soil to become waterlogged, and the growth of water-loving or water-tolerant plants to occur. Wetlands are transitional habitats, often forming the connection between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. They can occur where the water table is at or close to the surface, in low-lying locations, or along the edges of lakes and rivers. Many wetlands are permanently flooded, while others flood only periodically in the spring or fall. You can often walk through such areas in the summer without ever getting your feet wet!
by Lynn J. Landriault
Historically, southern Ontario was covered by forests interspersed with lakes, wetlands, grasslands, and other open areas. The natural landscape has changed dramatically as a result of agricultural practices and urban development. In many areas, private woodlots are the only remaining forests, and are critical for maintaining tree diversity and providing habitat for wildlife that require forest cover. Thoughtful, well-informed management approaches can result in woodlots that provide habitat for a wide range of forest-dependent wildlife species, while providing owners with a host of other benefits, including economic benefits in the form of wood products.
By Paula Vopni and Bruno Pretto
Woodlot owners are familiar with the many colourful and delectable mushrooms that emerge from the forest floor after spring and autumn rains. These mushrooms are much sought after, and wild mushroom gathering and cooking are delightful and rewarding activities. While these “earth” mushrooms, such as chanterelles, morels, and truffles, are ephemeral and difficult to cultivate, there is a whole category of more reliable “wood” mushrooms that grow on trees and fallen logs in natural woodlands. These wood mushrooms can be purposefully cultivated in a controlled manner. This article is intended to give you a basic understanding of how you can cultivate nutritionally valuable, gourmet mushrooms such as shiitake and oyster mushrooms on hardwood logs outdoors under the forest canopy. You will find some valuable references at the end of the article for further learning and for ordering mushroom growing supplies.
By Dick Lalande
Few woodlot owners take advantage of operating a commercial woodlot as a farm, and each owner and their own situation is unique This article will focus on a theoretical woodlot, Harry’s Commercial Woodlot, which is a forested, 400-acre mixed forest, some planted trees, swamp and field mix, situated in eastern Ontario.
This spring I had the pleasure of visiting Kelly’s Blueberry Farm near Bancroft. The blueberries were in bloom, and the bushes were alive with hundreds of bumble bees and other native solitary bees. Notably, the blueberry growing area on the Kelly’s farm is surrounded by forest on all sides. Few insecticides, if any, are used and all manner of wild flowering plants are allowed to flourish on hillsides and natural lands. On a tour of the woods I saw numerous native flowering plants on the forest floor and the forest edges boasted staghorn sumac, virgin’s bower, wild apples, choke cherries, pussy willows, meadow sweet, and many more flowering shrubs, all of which are nectar and pollen sources for bees. The trees themselves, although mostly wind pollinated, are visited by bees in early spring when other pollen sources are scarce and tree pollen is plentiful. My guess is that many of Ontario’s wooded areas are much the same--expanses of good foraging habitat for Ontario’s bees.
A series of case studies were developed to profile examples of responsible long term forest management in southern Ontario. Eight landowners were interviewed to gather their financial and forest information and to summarize the history of activities on their properties. Annual revenue and costs for various products (timber, fuelwood, and maple syrup) were obtained from the landowner. A representative crop model was developed for a typical crop rotation in Ontario using corn, soybeans & wheat. The model was based on crop enterprise budgets developed by OMAF, which reflect agriculture industry average costs and returns. A Present Value calculation was used to estimate the equivalent 2010 value for revenue and costs from the woodlots and agriculture crops. This paper summarizes the results of the eight cases. The results show that, during the time periods covered in this study, sound management of woodlots has provided returns that are complimentary and favourable in comparison with agricultural returns. The overall purpose for this study was to promote and document responsible management of privately owned forests.
To access the full report, click here.