An effort to improve the diversity of the forest in Sudbury is taking root.

For several years now, sections of forest floor have been transported from an area that was cleared from an area south of Sudbury to spots damaged by mining emissions. The new patches of undergrowth are now thriving, said Stephen Monet, the city’s manager of environmental planning initiatives.

"These plants came from the Highway 69 widening construction zone just north of the French River," he said. "They were cut out by hand and were brought into the impacted area of Sudbury."

Laurentian University student Kierann Santala has helped with monitoring the transplants.

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Laurentian University student Kierann Santala has helped with monitoring the forest floor transplants. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

"A lot of these understory species (an area of a forest which grows at the lowest height level below the forest canopy), we don't know a lot about their ecology," Santala said.

"So it's not like where you get a rose from a garden centre and you know where to plant it in your garden. So here, we are trying to figure out where these guys are going to do best."

Growing new opportunities

The forest floor transplant project started last summer — the latest chapter in the story of re-greening Greater Sudbury that, since the 70s, has detailed the expenditure of $25 million and the planting of more than 9 million trees by the city and local mining companies.

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Stephen Monet, Sudbury’s manager of environmental planning initiatives, crouches next to a transplanted section of a forest floor. The transplant project is part of the city's ongoing efforts to re-green the damaged landscape. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

The forest mats have been planted throughout the city in areas where sulphur dioxide and heavy metals decimated biodiversity. The total area of forest sections moved is equivilant to the size of a football field.

Monet noted the success of the project so far means more opportunities for forest rehabilitation lie ahead.

"Our target now is shifted from just simply planting trees on the hillsides," Monet said. "Now that we do have some of the trees on the hillside, we need to turn our attention to the development of healthy diverse forest ecosystems."

But to do that, they need to find more sections of forest floor to harvest. Monet said mining company Quadra FNX will allow the city to harvest forest floor from some of its land, which will permit the project to continue.