Every Tree Counts: Toronto's Urban Forest

In 2013, Toronto City Council approved a first ever  Strategic Forest Management Plan  (PDF) which includes the strategic goal of increasing canopy cover in Toronto to 40%.

This follows the 2005 Parks, Forestry and Recreation Strategic Plan (Our Common Grounds) goal of increasing Toronto's tree canopy from approximately 17-20% to between 30-40% over the next 50 years.

In collaboration with the USDA Forest Service and The University of Vermont, Spatial Analysis Laboratory, Toronto Urban Forestry has taken advantage of sophisticated modeling and remote sensing tools to paint a more detailed picture of Toronto's urban forest. The resulting study report includes the following key findings:

  • Toronto has an estimated 26.6% tree canopy cover
  • Tree cover increased slightly (1.3%) between 1999-2009
  • Between 2004-2012, the City and its partners planted almost 0.8 million trees
  • There are at least 116 different tree species in the City
  • Maple species account for approximately 1/3 of the total leaf area of the urban forest
  • 60% of trees in the City are located on private property, 34% are in City parks and natural areas and 6% are in City road allowances
  • Land use affects both quantity and quality of the urban forest
  • The urban forest provides the equivalent of more than $28.2 million dollars in ecological services each year, including benefits from energy savings and emissions reductions, air quality improvements and carbon storage and sequestration
  • The structural value of Toronto's urban forest is estimated at $7.1 billion

The results show that Toronto supports a reasonably healthy and diverse urban forest. Volunteer interest in planting and stewardship is up and new policies and construction standards are improving the lifespan of street trees. Funding to forestry programs has also increased the protection, maintenance and planting of trees on City property.

On the other hand, the City's Official Plan details the intense growth pressure facing Toronto. Other factors that will impact the urban forest in the coming decades include climate change, invasive insect pests and disease and increased use pressure on the City's green spaces.

These study results will help both citizens and planners better understand the incredible value of this complex resource. For more information on how Urban Forestry will be sustaining and enhancing the urban forest as the City of Toronto continues to grow, please refer to the Forestry Strategic Management Plan (PDF)