Afforestation Guide for Southern Ontario

Submitted by Climate Risk Institute | published 12th Jul 2022 | last updated 29th Jul 2022
Afforestation Guide

Afforestation Guide for Southern Ontario


This resource was submitted by the Climate Risk Institute for the CanAdapt Climate Change Adaptation Community of Practice. 

This article is an abridged version of the original text, which can be downloaded from the right-hand column. Please access the original text for more detail, research purposes, full references, or to quote text.

Ontario has a rich history of afforestation dating back to the late 1800s. Over the years a great deal of knowledge and experience of what works and what doesn’t for Ontario sites has been generated. Some of that knowledge has been documented in various technical notes and informal “guides” but much remains only in the minds of practitioners, passed down through mentorship and rules-of-thumb. This afforestation guide attempts to capture those documented and undocumented sources of knowledge into a single practical source.

Afforestation is the establishment of a forest where there previously was not one. The purpose of this guide is to provide information and best practices regarding the establishment and management of afforestation areas. This document is presented as a companion document to A Silvicultural Guide to Managing Southern Ontario Forests (MNR 2000) and as such does not represent a policy position of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) or carry any inherent legal or regulatory weight.

This guide presents information and best practices only. In isolation each piece of the guide may be an interesting read but it requires a clear landowner objective (economics, aesthetics, habitat, erosion control, carbon sequestration, etc.) to bring it all together into something meaningful. The first step in applying this guide is deciding what kind of future forest you want. It is highly recommended that you engage a knowledgeable professional in this process.

While the focus of this guide is afforestation on old-field sites, the information within, particularly the plantation management sections, should be useful in the management of plantations in reforested areas as well.

This guide was developed through the collaborative efforts of many individuals and organizations with experience in afforestation. This includes both the practitioners engaged in the development of this guide but also those that came before them. The development of this guide was in part an exercise in collecting and aggregating existing sources of information under a common cover. While existing sources provided a good foundation this document also presents new information developed from both empirical information and the experiential knowledge of practitioners.

This guide is organized into 6 chapters. Chapter 1 provides an introduction and brief context for afforestation in Ontario. Chapter 2 covers the establishment and early growth of afforestation areas including site suitability, stock selection, planting methods, and early monitoring. Chapter 3 is dedicated to competition control and covers topics such as site preparation, cover crops, tending, herbicides, and the unique aspects of working on former agricultural land. Chapter 4 addresses management of plantations including predicting growth, spacing and thinning strategies, generating value, and end stage options including transitioning to native forest cover types and establishing the next plantation. Chapter 5 covers forest health including insects and diseases, biotic and abiotic damage, and climate change. Chapter 6 includes eight case studies presented as both a demonstration of the concepts covered in the previous chapters and inspiration to follow or adapt to local circumstances.

While various aspects of this guide may be interesting to a general audience it is largely aimed at a technical forestry audience.