“You show people a big tree – it doesn’t matter where they’re from or what age – they’re moved by how profound and beautiful it is.” 

Eric Davies

Eric Davies is one of the Canadian media’s most sought-after experts when it comes to trees, urban forests, and ravine ecology, and I’ve now come to recognize Eric’s voice on the radio because of many occasions my radio alarm has awakened me to Eric being interviewed by Matt Gallaway on CBC’s Metro Morning! Whether it is the plight of indigenous trees in our ravines, or the propagation of resilient heritage trees to help mitigate climate change, Eric is the guy the media goes to for information and insight.

Eric is currently completing his PhD at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Forestry, and for the past 4 years, has been coordinating the  Toronto Ravine Revitalization Study, studying the ecology of the Don River Valley forest ecosystem, and mapping the exponential spread of invasive tree species, and their deleterious effects on ravine ecosystems.

Re-wilding North America’s urban forests has always been Eric’s is passion. With a deep understanding of nature, Eric has dedicated himself to forest health and ecosystem conservation for over 20 years – including establishing Ontario’s first provincial park native tree nursery at Presqu’ile in 1996. In 2016 Eric won the Toronto Botanical Gardens Aster Awards – Rising Star Award.

In this podcast, I spoke with Eric about his thoughts on how forests can be an important part of how we will address the impacts of climate change;  and how he sees his role as someone on the front lines of environmental harm reduction, regeneration, and climate adaptation;  and what advice he would have for someone setting out to make a difference.

Eric Davies in Forest

Advice Eric Had For Listeners:

“I think a lot of people have this idea that to make change, the only thing…is to encourage your government to sign the Paris Accord….We need to act more locally. Plant a heritage tree in your front yard. Learn about biodiversity. Teach others. Hopefully, it climbs back up the ladder to a global impact.”

“Get into nature! Go find that tree. Join a nature club. Toronto has the Toronto Ornithology Club, the Toronto Mycology Association, mushrooms. And a lot of these places, up until quite recently, were having a difficulty getting membership. But there is a revival of nature, and so I think that would be something. I think it’s an easy thing to do, and it’s good for the person who’s doing it, and if someone learns to love nature then they’ll be more primed to help out the larger picture.”

Key References:

  1. Ecosystem Integrity: According to the Canada National Parks Act, the law governing national parks in Canada, “ecological integrity” means, with respect to a park, “…a condition that is determined to be characteristic of its natural region and likely to persist, including abiotic components and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes.” See more at: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/nature/science/conservation/ie-ei
  2. Sea Choice: SeaChoice proactively engages with eco-label initiatives to improve labelling standards and ensure certifications remain credible. See more at: https://www.seachoice.org
  3. Ontario Field Ornithologists: Postings by Norman Murr. Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) is dedicated to the study of bird life in Ontario. It was formed in 1982 to unify the growing numbers of field ornithologists across the province and to provide a forum for ideas and information among its members, who now number over 1,000. OFO was incorporated in 1987. See more at: http://www.ofo.ca/index.php
  4. Project Provenance Ltd.: Provenance is a digital platform that empowers brands to take steps toward greater transparency. Their software allows businesses to gather and present information and stories about products and their supply chains, including verified data to support them. By connecting this information to things the origin, journey and impact of products can be tracked. See more at: https://www.provenance.org/about#mission

Links to Media Related to Eric’s Work:

Eric’s Google Tree Map – which contains ~1000 old-growth trees in the Toronto ravines. Eric collected seeds from these trees to propagate them:

Toronto Star: The Toronto Star article has now become a weekly column – Tree of the Week:

Toronto Star: Many of Toronto’s trees are older than the city itself:

Toronto Star: 10 of Toronto’s most breathtaking trees — our ravine queens and urban legends:

Globe & Mail: One man’s quest to restore native Canadian trees to Toronto:

Evergreen: Caring for the Valley Legends: The Mighty Oak:

The Guardian: ‘There’s no major city like it’: Toronto’s unique ravine system under threat:

Toronto Star: How Toronto’s ravines have become critically ill — and how they can be saved:

CBC: Ecological collapse of Toronto’s ravine system has begun, researcher says:

CBC: How much would an inventory of trees in Toronto’s ravine system cost? City will find out

CBC: Forest ecologist Eric Davies on Toronto’s oldest trees

Toronto Star: Studies say Toronto’s ravines and inner harbour are in trouble


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