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Net Zero Sudbury: Re-greening is part of the climate solution

Sudbury's re-greening story is a remarkable one, spanning 40 years

Franco Mariotti was born and raised in Sudbury, and has seen the transformation of the landscape through regreening. 

“Growing up in ‘Little Italy’ in the early 60’s, my immediate backyard was black rocks that looked like a moonscape with no green in sight, not even a blade of grass.   Much of the surrounding landscape around Sudbury looked like this also. The regreening of Sudbury was not just an aesthetic change in our backyards and the city.   It was a major positive transformation of the day to day world in which we lived”, said Mariotti. 

The story of regreening in Sudbury has been remarkable. From 1978 to 2015, over 3,400 hectares of land were limed and grassed and over 9.5 million trees have been planted. Regreening is not just about planting trees, but also about biodiversity, water quality, and climate change.

Laurentian University’s Landscape Carbon Accumulation through Reductions in Emissions research project estimates that 40 years of regreening efforts in Sudbury has sequestered 3,670,000 tons of carbon dioxide, and concludes that it is an effective way to capture carbon from the atmosphere. 

In Greater Sudbury’s draft Community Energy and Emissions Plan quadrupling regreening efforts is an important part of achieving net-zero carbon emissions, as committed to in the climate emergency declaration. 

Protecting existing trees is just as important as planting new ones. 

“For thousands of years the area that became Sudbury was covered primarily with large Red and White Pines.  The only place left to see this is at Wolf Lake old growth forest, northeast of Lake Wanapitei, with some pine trees as old as 300 years!   Old growth forests have high biodiversity and are important carbon sinks, locking up carbon from the air, and slowing Global Warming,” said Mariotti. 

Mariotti adds that in his lifetime, regreening has taught him that we can make big changes happen. “By empowering as many people as possible (industry, business, politicians and the public), we could make a tremendous positive difference in the world around us.  This had significant repercussions on the way Sudburians viewed themselves: we were no longer the 'City that looked like the Moon’, we are now the City of Lakes.”

In this City of Lakes, regreening has made aquatic ecosystems healthier.   “The forest has slowed down surface winds enough to protect the bottom waters in lakes from excessive warming in summer, thus allowing cold-loving species like lake trout to return to lost lakes,  even as global climate change occurs,” says Dr. John Gunn, a Canada Research Chair in Stressed Aquatic Ecosystems at Laurentian University. Dr. Gunn adds that “substances that flow from forests operate like a ‘medicine’ to lakes, as they bind up the free metals deposited for decades from the smelters, and render them non-toxic to fish and sensitive invertebrates”. 

What can you do to help with regreening efforts, and contribute to a healthier and cleaner Greater Sudbury? Simply, start with planting and caring for trees, especially trees native to the area. As a community, we can include more trees in our parks and public spaces, and take better care of existing trees with policies such as an Urban Forest Management Plan, tree-cutting by-laws, or requirements for green roofs. 

The result will be a healthier community for all of us.  A greener city with more trees in our parks, streets, and yards is better for our mental and physical health, keeps us cool, prevents flooding, and is part of a healthy natural ecosystem with old-growth forests, lakes and rivers for all to enjoy for many years to come. 

“The change we saw with regreening taught us that we can achieve major challenges,” says Mariotti.  With that lesson, Greater Sudbury is ready to tackle the climate emergency.

Adam Kirkwood is a guiding member of Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury.

Naomi Grant co-chairs Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury.

Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury is a grassroots group of citizens and community groups who share a vision of Sudbury as a green, healthy and engaged community. For additional information on a net zero future for Greater Sudbury, see https://www.liveablesudbury.org/net_zero_sudbury.




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