Assessing the Degradation Effects of Local Residents
on Urban Forests in Ontario, Canada
Wendy McWilliam, Paul Eagles, Mark Seasons, and Robert Brown
Abstract: Urban forests provide essential social, ecological, and economic functions in support of their communities; however, surveys indicate adjacent residents conduct activities within their yards and the adjacent public forest edge that degrade these systems. Local governments rely on boundary-focused passive management and/or active management to limit impacts. Encroachment results from various boundary treatments; however, it is not known whether encroachment represents a substantial source of degradation within Ontario, Canada, municipal forests. To evaluate this, percentage cover of encroachment impacts adjacent to 186 homes within 40 forests of six Southern Ontario municipalities was surveyed. The results indicated degradation resulting from encroachment was substantial. Encroachment occurred in highly valued and sensitive ecosystems, and during sensitive time periods. This was highly prevalent and covered a substantial proportion of the forest edge. Some encroachment behaviors were particularly harmful, resulting in the loss of significant forest area to residential land uses. Furthermore, encroachments remained over long periods. The small sizes and convoluted shapes of urban forests leave them vulnerable to these impacts. Prevailing municipal strategies are insufficient to protect these systems from encroachment. To ensure their long term protection, municipalities and their communities need to substantially increase their commitment and resources for addressing encroachment.
Keywords: Adjacent Land Use; Green Infrastructure; Greenspaces; Planning and Management; Residential Encroachment; Urban Forest Ecosystems;
Urban Forest Edges