How are tree plantings helping our Great Lakes?

The Great Lakes contain nearly 20% of the earth’s fresh surface water. But pollution and other urban pressures, are taking their toll on this resource, and it is currently believed that the Great Lakes are at “a tipping point of irreversible decline.”


With water scarcity already affecting around 2 billion people (one-fifth of the world’s population) it is our responsibility to protect and restore this resource.  The Ontario Great Lake’s Strategy contains a vision of healthy Great Lakes that are drinkable, swimmable, and fishable; a vision only achievable if we are able to protect and restore the ecological health of the Great Lakes.  LEAF is doing this by engaging communities in a series of tree planting events in partnership the Town of Richmond Hill, The Regional Municipality of York, TD Friends of the Environment Fund and the Government of Ontario.  But how are tree plantings helping our Great Lakes? I’m so glad you asked.


Forests have the amazing ability to act as buffers between land and water. These buffers are important in slowing down and filtering the stormwater runoff that enters our watershed.  Stormwater runoff is created when rain falls on hard surfaces like roads, parking lots, driveways, and other paved surfaces that do not allow water to soak into the ground.  As development increases so does the amount of hard surface, and as a result, a much greater amount of runoff is generated, compared to when rain falls over an area with ample soft ground, like a forest. 


Trees and forests act as a buffer in two ways: 

  1. When large volumes of water rush quickly to our local streams, they are at risk of flooding and erosion, washing away important wildlife habitat.  Trees provide bank stabilization and decrease erosion during high water events.
  2. Trees reduce pollutants by taking up nutrients and other pollutants from soils and water through their roots. The filtering of stormwater runoff is important in protecting the quality of our water.


By planting trees as riparian buffers, we are not only protecting local streams, and the wildlife that relies on this habitat, but also our watershed as a whole.  This includes our Great Lakes, where more than 80% of Ontarians get their drinking water from.  This May, you have the exciting opportunity to help LEAF in improving and maintaining the urban forest in Richmond Hill by joining in on a community tree planting event!


Join us for a morning of tree planting in Bridgeview Cordone Park and take home a free native shrub to plant in your yard (while supplies last).  All ages are welcome for this family-friendly event! But please note that children under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. For more information about these events, including registration, please visit our events page here.


Erica Hazlett is LEAF’s Education and Outreach Intern.

These community planting events are supported by Town of Richmond Hill, The Regional Municipality of York, TD Friends of the Environment Fund and the Government of Ontario.