Trees are a simple and effective means of combating many of the hazards that are created or exacerbated by climate change. Most commonly, they are cited as an effective means of battling the urban heat island effect, but tree also provide benefits towards reducing air pollution and stormwater discharge as well as increasing property values and improving mental health. Tree mortality rates are, unfortunately, increasing over time as pests and diseases such as the emerald ash borer, combined with changing weather patterns due to climate change, are damaging the urban canopy. The rapid population growth in Peel Region, and its primarily suburban development pattern, further complicate the process of tree planting as development pressures threaten historic greenspaces that sheltered much of the urban canopy. Many of the low canopy areas in the Region are also home to recent immigrants, recent refugees, and citizens that are socially and economically vulnerable. Additionally, municipal governments have many important matters to spend their limited funds on and, as a result, tree planting programs often operate on rather limited budgets. This adds extra pressure to ensure that what tree planting programs do exist are managed effectively and deliver the most benefits for the resources invested in them. It is this complicated environment that gave rise to the demand for a program that allows the regional government to make the best decisions possible regarding tree planting.
Beginning in 2007, the Region of Peel in Ontario started working on a tool to strategically target its tree planting work resulting a more efficient means of combating the effects of climate change and the urban heat island, especially for citizens with a lower socioeconomic well-being. Peel Region is a regional municipal government that has jurisdiction in the Western reaches of the Greater Toronto Area and includes the communities of Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon. This work was conducted in collaboration with local municipalities and Conservation Authorities. The end result was the production of a GIS tool that allowed for the Region of Peel and its partners to make more informed decisions regarding tree planting in the area, increasing the benefits to health and well-being that such vegetation provides.