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Approximately 25% of trees in Stanley Park will be cut down due to insect pest

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Many western hemlock trees stripped of their thorns are visible from the Seawall, the trail that surrounds Stanley Park.

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Nearly 160,000 trees of Stanley Park in Vancouver, about a quarter of the site's forest, will be felled due to a hemlock looper infestation, says the city's Parks Commission.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">The vast majority of these trees are western hemlocks, which make up a significant portion of the Stanley Park forest. They are also a preferred food source for the insect.

From the Latin name Lambdina fiscellaria, the looper Hemlock is an insect native to North America.

It feeds on coastal conifer species, making Stanley Park particularly vulnerable. Across Canada, it has destroyed several million hectares of coniferous forests throughout history.

Source: City of Vancouver and Canadian Forest Service

The infestation has lasted for four years and has destroyed a lot of trees, explains Marie-Claude Howard, commissioner Vancouver Parks.

Of the 160,000 trees set to be cut down, 140,000 are younger trees with a diameter of less than 20 centimeters, now brown and dead. The other 20,000 have diameters greater than 20 centimeters.

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According to Richard Hamelin, director of the Department of Forestry and Conservation Sciences at the 'University of British Columbia, hemlock looper causes cyclical outbreaks.

Epidemics like [the one at the moment] are not abnormal, he says. What is particular is that this epidemic is concentrated around Stanley Park and on the north shore, explains Richard Hamelin, specifying that these are places which particularly attract visitors.

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Professor Hamelin studies tree diseases to better understand forest disease outbreaks.

Richard Hamelin believes that the difficult weather conditions of recent years may have weakened trees affected by the hemlock looper.

We had droughts, which didn’t help, he believes. He explains that drought conditions may have prevented trees from drawing the necessary resources from the soil.

Trees, which are normally capable of to defend themselves against the looper, suddenly they had no more water, says Richard Hamelin.

Until recently, the City of Vancouver made the decision not to cut down trees affected by the hemlock looper. It's an insect that is here naturally. In a natural forest, we have epidemics, it's part of the regeneration process, explains Richard Hamelin.

Marie-Claire Howard believes, however, that the City could have acted differently. I think the decision not to deal with these loopers was not the best. It was taken because if we treat this type of looper, we kill other insects, she explains.

Today Today, the Parks Commission explains that cutting down trees has become essential for forest health and reducing fire risks.

Is the hemlock looper threatening our forests?.BROADCAST HERE FIRST.Panorama.

Is the hemlock looper threatening our forests?

BROADCAST HERE FIRST Panorama

Listen to the audio (Is the hemlock looper threatening our forests?. 12 minutes 11 seconds)< source srcset="https://images.radio-canada.ca/q_auto,w_160/v1/audio/emission/1x1/panorama-emission-premiere-gregory-bernard.jpg" media="(min-width: 0) ">

Stanley Park is home to 400 hectares of natural rainforest made up of a wide variety of trees such as western red cedar, big leaf maple and Douglas fir, in addition to hemlock

Currently, the City of Vancouver is exploring options to manage hemlock loopers over the longer term.

The idea is to replant with species that will resist loopers, but also bad weather, frost, cold, heat and more, says Marie-Claire Howard.

The City says the long-term goal is to reset the ecology of Stanley Park and create a more diverse and resilient forest environment .

With information from Wildinette Paul and Dominique Lévesque

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