Oakville’s battle against the Emerald Ash Borer moves to a higher plane

Town first in Canada to use aerial-based imagery to inventory public and private ash tree damage

Facing potential devastation of almost one in every ten trees from the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), the Town of Oakville, in partnership with AMEC Earth and Environmental Inc. has launched an innovative project that will see the inventorying of Oakville’s ash trees including those located on private property.

With more than 177,000 ash trees at risk, the majority of which are on private property, Oakville staff is using the latest state-of-the-art technology to manage the threat of EAB.  Tree inventorying efforts have been enhanced by Hyperspectral Imaging (HSI), an accurate means of verifying the distribution of ash trees throughout Oakville.

“Our goal is to provide the community with the necessary tools and resources to help preserve Oakville’s economically valuable and environmentally sustaining tree canopy,” said Chris Mark, director of Parks and Open Space for the Town of Oakville. “HSI will give us a good inventory of our ash population even on private property.” 

To compile this data, spectral images of Oakville’s ash trees were taken from 2,500 feet using aerial-based imagery, and at ground level using a specialized handheld spectrometer. HSI collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum. Unlike the human eye, which just sees visible light, hyperspectral imaging can see visible light including ultraviolet and infrared and collects information as a set of images.

“Knowing where this insect can strike and targeting trees that will be saved, will increase our chances of success especially since 80 per cent of Oakville’s treatable ash tree canopy is on private property,” said Mark. “Those ash trees which are still healthy and structurally sound can be saved if residents know about them and choose to treat them.”

“Hyperspectral remote sensing technology is an accurate and cost-effective method of EAB detection,” said Ian Hanou, senior project manager with AMEC. “It can yield promising results for a variety of natural resource management issues involving forestry, environmental hazards, invasive species, water quality and agriculture. It is good to see Oakville take the lead, but we believe that other municipalities should consider collaborating to share the cost and value across borders.”

Having made its way from Asia in 2002, the Emerald Ash Borer has eaten its way through more than 20 million indigenous ash trees in Canada and the US. Oakville plans to share the results of this innovative research with neighbouring municipalities, academia and forestry agencies, and Oakville residents.

“Oakville is leading the way in EAB management and has one of the most aggressive ash tree treatment plans in Canada. We have documented evidence that treatment with TreeAzin is an effective component of EAB management and our project is being closely monitored by other communities,” added Mark.

Oakville has treated approximately 1,600 municipal trees with TreeAzin this year. TreeAzin is a systemic bioinsecticide derived from the seed kernels of the neem tree which is native to India.

To date, the Town of Oakville has ceased new planting of ash trees; enhanced communication to the public; launched an EAB trapping project; implemented canopy conservation by under planting new species of trees in areas dominated by ash trees; treated ash trees with TreeAzin for the third year; performed leading-edge EAB research with several partner organizations; became the first municipality in Canada to comprehensively define distribution of EAB throughout a community; and undertaken this tree inventory project.

For more information please visit the EAB web page. 


Media contact:

Chris Mark
Director, Parks and Open Space
Town of Oakville
905-845-6601, ext. 3111

Janine Ivings
Senior Communications Advisor
Town of Oakville
905-845-6601, ext. 3005

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Oakville’s battle against the Emerald Ash Borer moves to a higher plane