Marrickville Council created new verge gardens on both sides of Dickson Street Newtown.  Recently these were planted on a community planting day.  It looks great.

Marrickville Council created new verge gardens on both sides of Dickson Street Newtown. Recently these were planted on a community planting day.  It looks great.

I’ve just spent a very interesting block of time using the new ‘Trees and Health App’ designed by ‘The Healthy Trees, Healthy People’ program at Portland State University in the USA.   13 cities of the United States are covered in this app with more cities planned for the future.

The main research questions were –

  • “How do different canopy designs (type, composition, distribution, and location of vegetation) improve air quality and reduce the heat island formation in urban landscapes?
  • Which canopy designs are best for reducing the incidence of acute respiratory illness in neighborhood residence most exposed to air pollutants?
  • Which canopy designs are most promising for reducing health care costs to the United States?” [I love to read this as I have always said that the lack of trees is a health issue resulting is significant ongoing costs for the community. If you want better health in a community, then the urban forest & canopy cover needs to be better than good. At 16.3% the canopy of Marrickville municipality is deemed poor.]

The following puts the issues better than I can – “A growing body of research is drawing the link between human health outcomes and the presence – or absence – of trees. Urban street trees slow traffic, provide sidewalk shade, improve air quality, and reduce the urban heat island effect, contributing to improved health outcomes for children, older adults, and those living in poverty.  Air quality vulnerability varies between neighborhoods – and so does the presence of trees – but new trees are rarely planted with these variations in mind.”  See – http://bit.ly/1F5xYuU

The ‘Trees and Health App’ has three functions – to assess, prioritize & plan. Each of these delivers a lot of important information about the urban forest of the particular city mapped. Detailed information can be gathered about –

  • Percentage of canopy cover [note – this is different from the number of trees. Canopy cover refers to the proportion is how much land area is covered by tree crowns when viewed from the air.]
  • Traffic related air quality.
  • Urban heat island index.
  • Percentage of residents under age 18 years. [Young people are included because of the significant impact on their health when the canopy cover is poor.]
  • Percentage of residents over age 65 years. [The health of older people is more at risk by a poor canopy cover.]
  • Percentage of residents living under poverty level. [Of interest is that wealthier suburbs generally have more trees, including street trees & street landscaping. This is easy to see across Sydney, & also easy to see in Marrickville LGA, though rising housing costs are making so-called ‘less desirable suburbs’ million dollar suburbs despite a poor canopy cover.]
  • Vulnerable populations.

The first function of the app, ‘Access’ shows the vulnerability to poor air quality in any neighbourhood. The map has colour gradations that allow you to have an overview at a glance, then, go to any area you choose for more information.  Sliders filter neighborhoods by value.  You can even ask the app to show you the worst neighbourhoods in terms of lack of canopy cover.

The second function, ‘Prioritize’ allows you to get further details regarding neighborhood vulnerability statistics. It also allows you to find the areas that most need trees.

The third function, ‘Plan’ allows you to set a tree-planting goal in either a particular neighbourhood or to increase the current canopy cover.   You can even choose whether you plant trees that are small, medium or large at maturity & whether these will actually allow you to achieve your goal. The app will also tell you how many trees you need to plant in any particular block or neighbourhood.

You can even go further into an area by getting the app to break it down to street blocks.

All the information can be printed off into a jpg, pdf or exported in ESRI Shapefile format.

This is a basic overview of what the app can do. It provides way more information than I have covered, but you can read more & use the app yourself by going to their internet page. I most certainly recommend doing this, as it is a unique experience that will have you thinking about our own canopy cover.

One can only hope that this app is purchased for use in Australia as many local councils could benefit greatly from this remarkable app. The days of saying, “We have (insert number) thousand street trees” is over. This information is stuff of the past.

Thanks to the many researchers who have studied the urban tree canopy, we now know that the health impacts are significant, the cost the community is significant, as well as ongoing & that poorer areas have less street trees & less landscaping. I have often wondered whether the lack of street trees & pleasant landscaping in poorer areas is a choice by local councils to attempt to keep some suburbs more affordable.

Certainly this article believes that there is a clear demonstration that income equality can be seen from space.  Communities with a lower income have fewer trees than high-income communities.   See – http://bit.ly/1r0snht

You can find out about the Trees and Health App’ here – http://bit.ly/1KkJAqz

They have also made a video which can be viewed here – http://bit.ly/1JecLKc

One of the last Hills Fig trees outside of parks. I think it is a perfect planting in this space at Edinburgh Road Marrickville.

One of the last Hills Fig trees outside of parks in Marrickville LGA.  I think it is a perfect planting in this space at Edinburgh Road Marrickville because there is plenty of room for the tree.  I alos like that there are large garden beds on both sides of the road.

Ornamental pear trees are planted along Crystal Street Petersham.  In my opinion these provide very little benefit of impact to the streetscape.

Ornamental pear trees along Crystal Street Petersham. In my opinion these provide very little benefit or impact to the streetscape.

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