Arthur News School of Fish
"ECS silv black ash 130821 site2 WFn53 (4)" by esagor is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. A stand of Black ash trees.

On Trent Land: Ashes to Ashes

Written by
Francene Francis
and
February 2, 2021
On Trent Land: Ashes to Ashes
"ECS silv black ash 130821 site2 WFn53 (4)" by esagor is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. A stand of Black ash trees.

Looking at a map of the entire 600-hectare property of Trent, I was overwhelmed by how small the built campus core is in comparison to the full property. Trent has a massive proportion of green spaces compared to other universities in Ontario and I think we as students often forget that. While the Trent Lands Plan (TLP) will compromise and potentially irreparably damage ecosystems on or around the Trent campus, with the projected population growth of the Trent Symons campus and Peterborough itself, the heads of Trent deem the TLP a necessary step. As Trent is marketed as the “third most sustainable university in Canada”, they have committed to minimizing the environmental pressures of their construction and have pledged to preserve the vast majority of existing green spaces.

While some argue that this makes the TLP environmentally sustainable, the fact that some ecological goods and services will be disturbed is cause for concern. My last article profiled three birds that may be critically affected by the construction process and the final results of the TLP. This article will focus on three ash tree species that will likely be disrupted by Trent’s expansion. Almost all of the proposed developments in the Plan will disturb the Nature Areas around Trent in some way. For example, the Plan involves moving the Trent Experimental Gardens, Vegetable Gardens, Trent Market Gardens, and the Apiary to one central location on the East Bank in what is currently the Wildlife Sanctuary, and the construction of Cleantech Commons on the Otonabee Wetland and Wetland Complex. The three ash species were selected by comparing the Trent University Bioblitz page on iNaturalist with the Ontario Species at Risk Act (SARA) database.

"White ash (Fraxinus americana)" by Kew on Flickr is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0Two White ash trees in different seasons. The left tree is just entering fall while the tree on the right is in the later stages of fall.

There are three ash (Fraxinus spp.) species on the Trent campus; Black, White, and Green ash. All are fairly abundant throughout the campus and nature areas. All trees have seven to eleven oval leaflets arranged parallel to each other and one at the apex that comprises a full leaf. Black ash (Fraxinus nigra) is the only of the three ash trees to grow in primarily wet areas. It is a bit smaller than the others with a narrow crown and a marrow, light-grey bark. The bark is relatively soft when young and becomes scaly with maturity. Leaves are light green and are the first to turn yellow and fall in autumn. White ash (Fraxinus americana) is Ontario’s most common ash species. It gets its name from the silvery undersides of its leaves. The leaves are slightly darker than Black ash leaves and turn a variant of colours from yellow to dark purple in autumn. When young, the bark is smooth and pale grey and becomes dark grey and furrowed with age. Green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) has yellow-green leaves that turn yellowish-brown in fall. The bark is greyish-brown and is sometimes red-tinged and mature barks are flaky with ridges. 

"My favorite local green ash" by Tie Guy II is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.The towering crown of a healthy Green ash tree in spring.

Virtually all ash trees throughout Ontario are threatened by the emerald ash borer (EAB). This beetle was introduced to Ontario in 2002 and trees affected by the EAB have an almost 100% mortality rate. The EAB has no natural predators in North America and has already killed millions of trees throughout Ontario. It has caused Black ash trees to be listed as “Threatened” under the Committee of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) . White and Green ash trees are not yet listed under COSEWIC, but are listed as “Critical” (decreasing populations) using the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This spiel culminates to simply say ash trees are at risk. If there are healthy populations on or around the Trent campus, we should be protecting them.There are many citizen scientist initiatives to partake in such as the Trent University branch of the Society for Ecological Restoration, or participating in the Trent University Bioblitz. While there are not yet any legal implications for their removal, we as citizens have the power to save remaining populations by staying alert and not allowing the destruction of healthy, stable populations.

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