For the first time the UTRCA has confirmed reforestation efforts are not keeping up with the loss of Oxford forests and those across the conservation authority
Oxford forests are being depleted at a rate faster than they are being replaced. (HEATHER RIVERS/SENTINEL-REVIEW)
Oxford County is losing its forests at a rate faster than they are being replanted and replaced.
According to an Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) report that will go before Oxford County Council on Wednesday, Oxford lost 218 hectares of forest between 2000 and 2010 or 1.6 per cent.
Entitled Forest Loss in the Upper Thames Watershed, the report is designed to provide a snapshot as to what has happened on the authority’s landscape since 2000.
Authored by terrestrial biologist Cathy Quinlan and geographic information systems specialist Terry Chapman, the results are drawn from maps of forest-and-vegetation cover the UTRCA has been mapping for years.
Quinlan said Monday that results of study last fall was “an eye opener” for the UTRCA and those they shared their information with.
“Every county has seen some forest loss, some a bit more and some a bit less,” Quinlan said.
By overlaying the 2000, 2006 and 2010 photography, Quinlan said researchers could clearly see forest areas for urban development, agriculture and aggregates.
“Over the years mapping has gotten better,” Quinlan said. “This is the first time we were able to get that level of detail, which allowed us to recognize the loss of forest cover for the first time.”
Of the 218 hectares lost, 142 hectares were eliminated from rural Oxford, 54 hectares disappeared from Woodstock and 22 hectares vanished from Ingersoll.
The results do not include windbreaks or street trees.
The loss was mostly attributed to agriculture and urban development, but also aggregate and rural development.
While there have been 134 hectares of area of reforestation, or young plantations, it isn’t enough to replace the area that was diminished.
The maps are the results of digital aerial photography completed in 2000, 2006 and 2010. Maps from 2015 are currently being worked on.
Quinlan said that according to satellite images taken by the Ministry of Natural Resources in 2015 the forest loss trend has continued.
The total forest loss across the Upper Thames River watershed from 2000 to 2010 is approximately 800 hectares (2,000 acres) or an area larger than Dorchester Swamp.
“The loss of forest cover is not always obvious, as forests are felled a little here and a little there,” the report read. “Pressure is often highest in urban areas. Developments approved many years ago don’t face current restrictions and regulations.”
Areas of young plantation visible on photos is 466 hectares (1,150 acres), shows gains are “significant, but not keeping up with loss.”
From 2001 to 2010, UTRCA’s forestry programs planted 324 hectares on public and private land.
“We need to ramp up what we’re doing in terms of protection and planting,” Quinlan said.
The UTRCA aims to double their restoration efforts with a goal of 1,500 hectares by 2037.
“Planting trees to grow new forests is necessary, but the results will never be as rich and diverse as the old forests we have left on the landscape,” the report read.