Tree planting part of Earth Day events in Nanaimo

Tree planting at Beban Park turf fields part of Earth Day events in Nanaimo.

Armed with a shovel, Sarah Manney will do her part to contribute to Earth Day by planting a tree.

She hopes others in the community join her and help green the space around the Beban Park turf fields.

“It’s alarming the number of trees being cut down here and around the world every day,” said Manney, international service director of the Nanaimo Interact Club – a youth Rotary group. “It’s really difficult for each individual just to stop that, because it’s all these big industries.”

Manney said not many people know about the Interact Club, which functions just like other Rotary groups, creating community programs and funding international projects.

“It’s really a variety of things and we’re just actually a bunch of teens trying to make a difference,” she said.

The Interact Club and City of Nanaimo parks, recreation and culture department, which donated the trees, partnered to host the tree-planting and barbecue Sunday (April 22) from 10 a.m. to noon at the Beban Park turf fields.

Each dollar donated at the barbecue will go to the Earth Day Network, an organization that works with more than 22,000 partners in 192 countries to involve more people and create more diversity in the environmental movement. The network will use the money to plant trees around the world.

Coming together as a community and trying to be more environmentally friendly is important, said Manney, adding the club wanted to create an event that would have an international connection.

“It’s important that even though this may be a humble effort, it raises awareness, which is something that is really powerful,” she said.

Participants can help plant the donated Garry oak trees, as well as small shrubs.

“Tree planting is very good. It brings people closer to their environment it makes them realize that they are having an impact on their environment,” Michel Vallѐe, first vice-president of the Canadian Institute of Forestry and a faculty member of Vancouver Island University’s forestry department. “I think the biggest value they have is on human psyche.”

Vallѐe said planting trees on Earth Day brings people closer together and makes them realize the value of their environment. It also brings more attention to where people live and what influences their everyday existence, he said.

Trees are carbon sponges. They isolate carbon from the atmosphere, store it, and produce oxygen.

Carbon is stored in the trees’ cellulose and even when they are cut down and converted to lumber, carbon remains stored in the wood. It isn’t released until the wood is burned or decomposes.

Trees and forests can be used responsibly, said Vallѐe, adding that protecting the fundamental components of an ecosystem – climate, soil and water – allow forests to regenerate.

“Canada probably has the best forest-management strategies in the world. The way we manage our forests is very ecologically sound,” he said.

But there is an emphasis in Canada on conserving forests and maintaining them exactly as they are, such as wanting national parks to remain unchanged.

“That’s a fallacy, because you can’t conserve something that is dynamic and changes all the time. You can protect the processes, but you can’t put [a forest] in a jar,” Vallѐe said. “By doing that, we’ve basically destroyed them because we have stopped the natural process of ecological succession and we are trying to maintain them in a steady state.”

In B.C., fire is one of the strongest forces of natural disturbance – along with wind, insects, disease and floods – but the province has learned how to control it, Vallѐe said.

As a result, the process of natural succession in forests has slowed, creating additional concerns. Forests in the Interior have become older and more susceptible to disease and insects, such as the mountain pine beetle. If a fire erupts in a dead pine forest, it can burn more intensely and have a significant negative effect on the environment, he said.

Less than three per cent of British Columbia’s original forest has been converted to human (non-forest) use, according to a 2010 provincial government report. Protected forest areas, with newer areas not included in the 2010 figure, totalled 7.6 million hectares, or 14 per cent of B.C.’s forest.