Urban Forests in a Changing Climate

Urban trees play an important role helping communities mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. Urban forests store carbon and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Sep 21, 2020   •   Climate Resilience , Human Health

It is important that we recognize and understand the essential role our forests play in helping communities adapt and mitigate to climate change. Trees have the unique ability to store carbon, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Through producing large amounts of shade, they keep our cities cooler and can decrease flooding as their leaves and branches intercept water, reducing the amount of run-off when it rains. 

Urban trees play an important role helping communities mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. A recent report by the City of Toronto estimated that Toronto’s urban forest stores over 1.1 million metric tonnes of carbon.

These trees in and around cities and communities including forests in nearby rural areas like those in the Greenbelt are collectively referred to as the urban forest. Currently the Greater Toronto Area has an estimated 34.2 million trees representing over 100 species in its urban forest, resulting in approximately 26% tree canopy cover across the region. However, racialized and other marginalized communities typically have reduced access to high-quality greenspace near home.

Our forests are currently facing numerous threats from development to climate change itself. Building accessible and resilient forests is an important step for the health of our communities.

In collaboration with University of Toronto professor, Tenley Conway, and University of Toronto PhD Student and Founder of Black Outdoors, Jacqueline L. Scott, this issue focuses on how forests are impacted by climate change and how access to these important spaces is not equitable along racial lines. At the end of each report below, you will find simple ways you can take action and support the health of our trees.

Read the full report and fact sheet on becoming a climate change witness below:




This report is one instalment of the Greenbelt's In a Changing Climate series. For this ongoing project, the Foundation continues to partner with experts to better understand how climate change is affecting many aspects of our lives, and ways that we can individually and collectively respond to these challenges. Click here to explore other reports and expert interviews in this series.