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Yesterday 21 March was World Forestry Day, a global celebration of forests & their benefit & value to life on earth. Here are some interesting facts about forests –
- 90% of the planet’s species live in rainforests.
- The huge & diverse range of species provides a genes reservoir.
- Forests purify the air releasing oxygen that is essential to life.
- Rainforests generate around 40% of the world’s oxygen.
- Forests sequester CO2 & retain vast amounts of carbon. 1 acre of forest sequesters & stores 31.45 tons of carbon annually.
- Without forests, human beings would not be able to exist.
- Forests provide food, shelter, fuel, medicine & timber making them extremely valuable in economic terms.
- Forests provide habitat & maintain plant, insect, bird & animal biodiversity.
- Tropical forests cover around 7% of the earth’s surface & provide habitat to around 50% of all the world’s plants & animals.
- Much of the world’s honey comes from forests.
- Forests regulate the water cycle.
- Forests also prevent flooding by slowing rainwater allowing it to be absorbed into the ground.
- The water cycle in forests filters & replenishes the water-table.
- Forests lower temperature.
- They are often referred to as the ‘lungs of the Earth, especially the Amazon Rainforest.
- Forests will help mitigate global warming.
While not as pronounced, the urban forest is as important as the natural forest & also has multiple benefits –
- Lowering the Urban Heat Island Effect.
- Lowering air pollution.
- Carbon sequestration & oxygen release.
- Maintaining human health & wellbeing.
- Providing habitat & food for urban wildlife.
- Lowering heating & cooling costs.
- Preventing soil erosion.
- Act as windbreaks.
- Lessen noise from the environment.
- Conserve water & help lessen stormwater runoff.
- Help mitigate global warming.
The urban forest does more than pretty up an area. Basically, without trees in urban areas our physical & mental health will deteriorate & most of our urban wildlife will likely disappear. Trees increase the livability of an area.
North Sydney Council summed the benefits of the urban forest nicely in their Urban Forest Strategy - “Without this urban greenery our city would be much hotter, our energy consumption much higher, our stormwater levels much greater, & our lives much more stressed as we would have no natural areas in which to recreate, no bird or animal life to admire & a whole lot less oxygen to breathe!”
Just for interest, in 2008 the canopy cover in suburban areas of North Sydney LGA was 43%. North Sydney Council say in their Urban Forest Strategy 2011 that the Internationally Recommended Target is 50%. Marrickville Council do not know what their canopy percentage is as yet, but they have said they intend to find out. They have not yet set a target for increasing the canopy in the latest Draft Urban Forest Policy 2010.
As the Internationally Recommended Target for the urban forest in suburban areas is 50% I now know why there is such a difference between Marrickville LGA & other much greener Councils across many areas of Sydney. I look forward to the day when this recommended target is met in Marrickville LGA as I believe it will have a huge & positive impact on the health, happiness & wellbeing of the community in the Inner West.
National Geographic photographer David Liittschwager demonstrated just how diverse & full of life forests are with this very interesting & beautiful set of 71 photos of a Metrosiderous tree published last February 2011. All up he found & photographed 58 species living in 1 cubic foot of tropical rainforest in Mo‘orea. Quite stunning really. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/02/pictures/110223-biodiversity-tropical-forest-cubic-foot-moorea-biocode/
There are many more benefits of trees that I have listed here – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/100-tree-facts/
The Good Weekend 21st August 2010 there was an article called The Enriched List. Michael Mobbs was first up in a list of 14 people on The Enriched List & described as a ‘Sustainability Advocate.’ I really like his work & ideas for living in an urban environment.
Michael Mobbs was given a whole page photo leaning against a bale of hay, holding a chicken with rootstock sitting on a sandstone wall behind him. First impression anyone who didn’t know of his work would have is he is a farmer, not an Inner City resident of Sydney standing in his own small terrace garden.
The article goes on to say Michael, an ex-lawyer, has had an interest in sustainable design for more than 20 years & is a consultant on sustainable food, water & energy projects for residential & commercial sectors.
Michael transformed his Inner City house 15 years ago. He uses solar power & collects rainwater from his roof to wash clothes, flush the toilet & water the garden. He keeps bees & also started a community verge garden in 2008 for food production. His neighbours participate in this.
They have 13 compost bins out on the street that are used by locals as well as other people in nearby suburbs. The compost bins – each turn 3 tonnes of food waste a year into 1 tonne of soil (& he says, remove an estimated tonne of carbon out of the air). The public garden has had huge support from residents & has led to Sydney City Council & other local councils changing their policies to support growing food & composting in the streets.
The residents at Wilga Street Dulwich Hill have a community garden on their verges. Their compost bin collects food waste from Oz Harvest & some of the local restaurants. It hasn’t been going for long, but already there are vegetables growing & passion fruit climbing a power pole.
I am not aware of many public community gardens across Marrickville LGA though I do know one is in the process of being set up in Denison Road Dulwich Hill. Council recently said there is no room for one in Marrickville South.
Marrickville Council spends around $2 million a year mowing the verges across the LGA. Many of the verges are unkempt areas with dumped rubbish, only looking good a fortnight after the mowing.
North Sydney Council stopped mowing the verges last year hoping that the residents would take over & mow their patch outside their house. It didn’t happen for the most part. Eight or so months later the grass was thigh-high forcing the Council to restart mowing services. Thing is, North Sydney Council stopped mowing to save money so they could have money to put in other areas to benefit the community.
I was surprised that the residents refused to mow the verge outside their house. Marrickville Council does ours, but often enough, my neighbour will do everyone’s if it starts to look scraggly. Another neighbour of mine used to mow the verges across the road as well, but he was exceptional.
Imagine if we decided the way Michael Mobbs is going is a good thing? Free land out on the verge, a place to grow flowers, plants & veggies. Compost bins to collect food, waste which will cut down on the weekly bin load & pay us back in free compost for our gardens.
People would meet & talk with each other on the street, friendships may occur, shopping bills are likely to be less because we are growing some of our food, our kids learn about food production & about taking pride in the neighbourhood & social responsibility.
Other benefits such as less Heat Island Effect as green & growing plants reduce the heat dramatically & with less heat, our cooling bills will drop. Less vandalism, probably less graffiti as this generally does not occur in pretty well-kept areas, activities for people to do, people deciding to walk because there are interesting things to see.
Perhaps traffic would be slower as I imagine that verge gardens would have similar effects, like street trees slow drivers down. Or maybe they will all drive at 40kpm because they want to have a look at the gardens…
This is probably not an exhaustive list of the benefits of verge gardens, but is what I was able to think up as I wrote. If these benefits are so easy to think up, then why aren’t more of us doing it? People do consider the space outside their house as theirs when it is convenient – my parking space, my street tree to get rid of if I choose for example, yet when it comes to taking care of it, we immediate abdicate to Council.
I’d like to think there would be many of us who would consider transforming the verge outside our house. If growing veggies is too much of a leap, then perhaps a few plants, especially low growing natives that do not need much care, can be pruned so they do not become a visibility issue for drivers & will serve as restaurants for birds.
We have done it & the amount of people who ask us how can they get Council to do the same for them is astounding. Everyone loves it & they think it has improved the neighbourhood. Some have said things like, “I always feel good walking past here.” Green spaces have that effect. Lawn or concrete doesn’t.
You can read the article about Michael Mobbs as well as view a 2 minute video here – http://www.smh.com.au/advertisers/enrichedlist/michael-mobbs/
The Enriched List of 14 people can be found at - http://www.smh.com.au/advertisers/enrichedlist/
Michael Mobb’s own website can be found at – http://sustainablehouse.com.au/
Community tree preservation groups Save Our Figs Wauchope & Save Our Figs Group have a big fight on their hands with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council who intend to remove 13 Fig trees in the town centre “to prevent future damage to private property & public infrastructure.” The roots of the Fig trees are presenting a trip hazard & 3 residents have complained of damage to their property they say was caused by the trees.
Thing is, the Council have just completed major works on the streets with the trees described as the centerpiece. Importantly, 3 years ago the community fought to retain these trees & won.
Now the threat of litigation has reared its head & if history is anything to go by, a very small number of people are going to get their way & have the trees removed. Council can’t take the risk that people will start litigation in the future.
A couple of days ago I posted that Goondiwindi Regional Council chopped down healthy Fig trees despite community opposition. It’s the same story. Now that the trees are gone, the Council has made the decision to spend $96,000 on floating footpaths. They are doing this now because they, “understand how important these trees are to residents.”
Using floating footpaths means the trees can grow normally. There is no need to cut off or shave down roots, nor cover them in bitumen. Nor will they need to chop the trees down because of a trip hazard or damage to footpaths. Seems like sensible spending to me. Given that any large healthy tree can be worth around $100,000, spending money to keep them is a good economic decision.
The large street trees in the centre of both these towns are what bring beauty & a sense of place. The towns use their street trees as a tourist draw card. The Fig trees also provide a tangible history & are held dear by most of the community.
Take the trees away & you have substantially changed a place. Not only have you removed things that are worth a great deal of money & with 13 Figs we are talking in excess of a million dollars, but their loss will have an impact on spending in the shops. Researchers have concluded 11% more money is spent in shopping areas where there are big healthy shady trees. To their credit Port Macquarie-Hastings Council plans to replace the Figs with 11 advanced Brush Box trees.
My question is why don’t Councils or organizations take pre-emptive action on their big trees when the trees are in areas that could damage property or cause trip hazards? Ultimately it is worth the financial outlay when one considers how much these trees are worth in a monetary sense. Then there are all the other factors to take into consideration, history, place, future, community cohesion (fights like these in small towns could escalate into severe divisions), trust in the Council/organisation & stating the obvious, climate change.
Root barriers can be put in place. Sewerage & water pipes can be replaced with pipes that can’t be invaded by tree roots or re-routed & be done with the problem forever. In Canada, they use a system that allows pipes to be replaced without digging, disturbing or damaging tree roots. They use a water flushing vacuum system to remove the soil from around the roots, pipes or wires, then install the new pipes & put the soil back in.
You don’t even need to put in concrete foundations near a tree when you are building anymore. Again in Canada, they insert giant steel screw piles into the ground that are just as stable as concrete foundations & require no digging.
There is also a high-density plastic grid system that I have seen used in Sydney. Once laid over the ground the grid disperses the weight of vehicles over a larger area. The grid also prevents soil compaction, which can damage roots. Best of all, the grid allows rainwater to permeate the soil, reducing the need for irrigation & improves storm-water management. Ground cover or other plants can be grown in the spaces within the grid.
The grid also prevents soil erosion. I can see these grids used to support riverbanks & to create cement-free car parks. They could also be used to channel water into the ground near a street tree rather than be wasted by pouring down drains. There is no reason why a section of the gutter cannot be a grid.
There is also porous concrete used across City of Sydney & North Sydney Councils. Porous concrete provides a seamless surface allowing people to walk across it, but still captures any rainwater that falls on it, watering the tree.
There are quite a number of beautiful Figs in Marrickville LGA & many of them are planted near buildings. Unfortunately many of these trees live in less than perfect conditions with cement & bitumen almost to the base of their trunk. Many have cars & trucks parked right next to them. As we have seen, it is only a matter of time before branches get gouged or broken off by trucks.
The only reason why money isn’t spent on protecting trees before problems start is that trees are not held in high importance or the Council is so strapped for money that understandably, urban forest issues get moved down the list of priorities.
Many Councils do hold their trees in high esteem & look after them. They use floating footpaths & permeable rubber surfaces or permeable ‘solid’ surfaces. They put garden beds around trees to prevent or limit the amount of vehicles that can park under them. They put ‘no parking’ signs for vehicles over a certain size & weight & they do other things like prune dead branches & normal die back. They probably feed them occasionally as well.
I would do all of the above & if property damage occurred with people saying get rid of the tree/s, I would think it is the community’s & Council’s best interest to fix the damage (within reason, once proof & access has been given to Council) & put things in place to ensure the problem won’t repeat itself. Too many people & future generations miss out for cracks to walls & pipes, both which are easily fixed without costing as high as the value of losing a tree.
Trees are the only things Councils own that increase in value each year.
I have written about clay soils & how they affect buildings at – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/clay-soil/
You can read both stories at the following links -http://www.portnews.com.au/news/local/news/general/lastditch-figs-effort/1874281.aspx
The University of Tasmania have just completed a 3 year nation-wide study as to why some people prefer a leafy front garden while others don’t. Interestingly, tertiary educated people preferred trees & the higher the income, the more trees. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/05/03/2888948.htm
An unusual story of public tree removal in Newport: The Cumberland Courier reported that an unspecified number of trees & scrub has been removed from Barenjoey Road by Pittwater Council. Residents requested the trees be removed saying the trees were not native & removing them would open up the area to ocean views from North Newport. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/trees-removed-barrenjoey-views-restored/
Pittwater Council’s Natural Environment Reference Group has submitted a plan to have all new DAs required to maintain wildlife corridors across their land. This would also include retaining dead trees, as these are especially important for providing homes for a variety of wildlife. The new plan specifically targets the protection of Green-&-Gold Bell Frogs, Swift Parrots, Squirrel Gliders, Southern Brown Bandicoots & (would you believe they are even there) Koalas. Any DA will also be required to plant more trees & wildlife sustaining landscaping. http://manly-daily.whereilive.com.au/news/story/protection-plan-for-endangered-animals/
Mid April 2010 North Sydney Council decided to explore the idea of replanting garden beds in parks & reserves with vegetables. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/councillors-dig-vegie-patch-idea/
North Sydney Council stopped mowing verges early 2009, but after complaints from residents, they will now do a one-off mow at the cost of $58,000. They also intend to reinstate verge mowing by the end of 2010.
Just as an aside, I was told Marrickville Council spends about $2 million per year mowing our verges. Makes me wonder what that that money could be used for if we just mowed our own & our neighbours if they didn’t have a mower. $2 million could repair the Coptic Church in Sydenham for history’s sake & for community use or it could buy a lot of street & park trees amongst many other things. I saw a sign in Catherine Street Leichhardt yesterday that read something like – ’2.3 million dollar footpath upgrade.’ Or we could just grow veggie or flower gardens on our verges. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/nature-strips-to-be-mowed-soon/
Energy Australia has angered the community once again by ‘butchering’ 2 large trees in Allambie Heights shopping centre. http://manly-daily.whereilive.com.au/news/story/locals-angry-over-allambie-tree-butchery/
An 18 metre high Port Jackson Fig tree with a canopy spreading about 15 metres listed on the Significant Tree Register of City of Sydney Council was removed last month due to extensive rot. It was part of a row of Figs in Joynton Aveneue Zetland. The lost tree will be replaced by a mature Port Jackson Fig. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/urgent-removal-of-fig-tree-in-zetland/
City of Sydney Council has joined with Marrickville Council in formally opposing the M5 extension that will go through Tempe Reserve, over Tempe Wetlands & terminate at Euston Road at Sydney Park. Terrific news. http://sydney-central.whereilive.com.au/news/story/sydney-council-formally-opposes-m5-extension/
It will be interesting to learn how the trial at removing smog in the M5 during March went. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/m5-pollution-trial/
A home up for sale in the Brisbane suburb of Mackenzie incurred $20,000 damage after the front garden was excavated & 10 Palm trees stripped down by unknown workers who fled when people came to watch. It is thought they were working on the wrong property. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/7685319/Australian-workmen-dig-up-wrong-garden.html
Finishing the ongoing story about the trees in the carpark of Walmart in Henderson Tennessee that were savagely pruned recently, Walmart have been ordered to replace 100 of the Elm trees. This will cost them around US$25,000. http://www.wkrn.com/Global/story.asp?S=12213247