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Two dead street trees right next to each other in Marrickville – notable because they are beside each other.

My last post was about the NSW government’s ‘Five Million Trees’ initiative.  See – https://bit.ly/2H2IEkz    The aim is to increase Sydney’s existing tree canopy from 16.8% to 40% over the next 12 years at a cost of $37.5 million over four years.

Fortune had it that I came across a long & detailed article from Scenario Journal titled, ‘How Many Trees Are Enough? Tree Death and the Urban Canopy’ written by Lara A. Roman.  https://bit.ly/2K1G1gC

The article looked at tree survival across US cities.  Research has found that, despite concentrated campaigns to increase the urban canopy in many major US cities, the canopy cover is actually declining. This is of major concern considering the extra pressure we have from increased development, a changing climate & its associated urban heat island impacts.

Three questions were asked –

  • “With major new planting campaigns, how many of those trees will survive for decades, reaching a mature size at which their environmental and socioeconomic benefits are greatest?
  • How many trees are enough – that is, how many need to be planted to make a lasting impact, and meet a city’s canopy cover goals?
  • What are the implications of future tree death for managing the urban forest, in terms of cycles of tree removal and replacement?”

“For street trees in New York City, eight to nine years after planting, 26.2% were dead.  For a yard tree give-away program in Sacramento,  five years after planting, 29.1% had died, on top of 15.1% that were never planted by residents.  For these yard and street tree examples, over a quarter of the trees planted died within the first five to nine years, and furthermore, for the tree give-away, some trees never made it into the ground.”                                                 

As part of their 5 Million Trees initiative the NSW government plans to give away 15,000 trees to people who are building homes in new land release areas in Western Sydney.  I wonder how many of these trees will actually be planted.  I don’t know about you, but I have bought plants from the nursery & left it too long before I put them into the ground.   One can realistically expect that high numbers of these giveaway trees will not be planted in western Sydney.  Will these be acknowledged, or will they just be written up as a successful addition to the urban canopy simply because they were given away?

The Inner West Council has given away trees for the past two National Tree Days & I applaud them for this.  It would be interesting to know whether Council has gathered information about how many of these trees made it into the ground & how many are still alive today?

The article notes that in the US there is very little in regards to monitoring & follow-up with tree planting campaigns & calls for a nationally coordinated monitoring network.

The author then cites the common belief that street trees live on average for only 7-years & a maximum of 13-years. Apparently, this belief was formed decades ago where a questionnaire was sent to urban foresters “asking the local experts to estimate the typical tree lifespans in their cities.”  The author describes this as “overly pessimistic.”

One only need to look around our own suburbs to know that there are plenty of streets with street trees that are 70-100 years of age.  Generally, these are QLD Brushbox or Fig trees.

A study to understand the change in the street tree population of West Oakland in the US looking at annual tree planting & tree deaths found that the annual mortality rate was 3.7%.   Most of the tree loss came from newly planted trees with a trunk of 7.6cms (3 inches).

“Extra vigilance during the establishment phase, in terms of maintenance and stewardship, might have the most payoff for ensuring planting survival, and thus achieving larger canopy objectives.”

“Planting a few hundred trees, or even a million, does not automatically translate into an increase in the overall tree population over the long-term. To increase population levels, the survival and planting rates have to out-weigh losses from tree death and removal, including both old and young individuals.”

I think this article brings up serious issues concerning increasing the urban forest.  I’ve noticed that street tree removals post Marrickville Council’s Tree Inventory meant that for at least 3-4 years the urban forest numbers stayed relatively the same.  With 1,590 streettrees to be removed from 2013, planting around 400 new trees a year meant that making up ground was slow.

I have noticed that a lot of street trees have been removed in the last couple of years.  Since Council does not report the removal of trees 5-metres or under & since 49% of our street trees were found to be 5-metres or under, we have no idea where street tree numbers are at now & no ability to calculate this ourselves.  The Tree Inventory was costly, so I doubt we will have a new one done for many years.

Increasing the canopy means not the number of trees planted, but the percentage of total ground area; for example, at 50% canopy cover, half of the total ground area is covered by the vertical projection of tree crowns.”  

This has an impact on the way Council prune street trees as well. Continuing to remove side branches that serve to make the tree canopy fuller & produce longer periods of shade is counterproductive – unless it is required for safety reasons like branches over the road affecting passing trucks as an example.  However, you only need to look at the street trees around you to know that many street trees are pruned to have no side branches.

Council’s policy of no tree branches 2.5-metres (8.2 feet) above a footpath pretty much ensures that the footpath will have no shade except for perhaps an hour when the sun is in the right position.

The Five Million Trees initiative may result in significant changes with tree planting & reporting.  It would be good if this information is available to the community should they be interested.  Hopefully, outdated ways to manage street trees get dumped & our urban landscape becomes green & flourishing.

A Marrickville streetscape – a good one because it has street trees 2 storeys tall.  Photo June 2016.

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Corner of Canterbury Road and Herbert Street Dulwich Hill – an unusual opportunity by Council to make a truly green and inviting space for the community in this location. A missed opportunity and I bet this work cost a lot.

New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill.   Plenty of room for street trees here

A while ago a reader wrote & asked what I thought of the NSW government’s plan to plant 5-million new trees across Sydney by 2030.  I was surprised that I had missed such a great commitment from the government & pleased that finally, something was happening to address Sydney’s canopy.

The issue is back in the news today, so I thought I would write about it for the people like me who missed this news.

Climate change is coming with a vengeance.  You just have to feel today’s temperature at a record-breaking 35-degrees for the third time this week in mid-Autumn to know something is going on & every year it gets hotter. Even the trees are getting confused putting on a second flowering when they are supposed to be shedding their leaves.

The ‘Five Million Trees’ initiative will cost $37.5-million over four years & will increase Sydney’s existing tree canopy from 16.8% to 40% over the next 12-years.  The former Marrickville LGA’s canopy was documented as “poor” by 202020 Vision at 16.3%.  Leichardt LGA was documented as 20.3%, & Ashfield as 19.8%.  

You just have to cross Parramatta Road to Leichhardt & Annandale to see a massive difference in the canopy compared to Marrickville, Tempe, Sydenham & St Peters.  The suburbs of Petersham, Camperdown & Stanmore fare much better & to my mind, have a much nicer streetscape because of the street trees. Even then, the comparison to streetscapes in the former Leichhardt LGA makes these suburbs look tree poor.  Dulwich Hill is somewhere in the middle depending on where you are.

Taking our canopy from 16.3% to 40% by 2030 will mean a substantial increase in livability for residents, though I do have concerns about how this will be managed with the coming over-development for Marrickville & Dulwich Hill.

Development generally means losing mature trees & token trees as a replacement.  Let’s hope the government forces developers to leave space for big canopy trees & not take the route of removing trees in one place & saying it is okay to plant trees somewhere else.  This is a terribly poor result for the community & especially wildlife.

This would be a good time to force developers to set their high-rise buildings back 4-5 metres to allow trees to be planted at the street front instead of building right to the footpath.  Trees in the front of set-back buildings could look so much better & be much healthier for the residents of these buildings.  I would be happy to give developers extra height to allow space at the front for trees & to avoid the tunnel effect of overbearing buildings.

380,000 trees will need to be planted by local councils across Sydney every year for 12-years to achieve the target & to minimize the urban heat island effect. 

I would love to know how many new trees Inner West Council will need to plant every year to meet this target. The improved canopy cover is expected to reduce temperatures when the sun is at its hottest by approximately 5-degrees Celsius.  That doesn’t sound much, but stand under a shady tree on a hot summer’s day & you will instantly notice how much cooler & pleasant this is. We will have people being neighbourly again & not trapped inside with the air-conditioning. This will be a good thing for community relations.

In 2017 the Inner West Council said they planted 1,000 trees across the municipality.  While I am pleased for any new tree planted, I thought that was a low number for what was, until recently, three municipalities.  They did not say where the trees were planted, so we have no idea whether each former municipality got one-third each or Balmain & Leichhardt lucked out with the largest number of new trees planted. Who knows?  You can’t blame anyone for wondering these things when there is poor information given.

I estimate that the Inner West Council will be required to plant more than three times that number every year from now on.  Perhaps, this will encourage council to include the community in tree planting, as happens elsewhere across the globe.  If the residents help plant the trees, there is a lesser chance that these will be vandalized.

The community will come to understand why trees are necessary & how these new street trees will improve their quality of life, their health, the value of their home & lessen their power bills.

You just have to see the work done by Blacktown City Council’s Cool Streets project to see how their community went from choosing small stature street trees to choosing a mixture of medium to tall trees.  They made the huge change because they learnt about the benefits to their health & their wallet.  Of course, there is always a chance of a roaming vandal, but hopefully, these people get caught up in the tree education and decide to vandalise inanimate objects (or their own home) instead of public trees.

The NSW government also plans to give away 15,000 trees to people who are building homes in new land release areas in Western Sydney.  This is a very good thing, but I wonder where they will find space to plant them. Having seen new estates, the blocks are almost all covered by the building’s footprint.   There also needs to be means to check that these trees have actually been planted.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said, “Planting this many trees across Sydney is equivalent to taking about 355,000 cars off the road each year.”

The ‘Five Million Trees’ initiative is part of the NSW Government’s Open Spaces package at a cost of $290 million.

  • $100-million will be to secure green space,
  • $20-million will be to build & renovate up to 200 playgrounds.
  • $30-million will be to create 81 school ovals & playgrounds for public use during school holidays.   I have concerns about using playgrounds as public green space. I may write about this on another occasion.

Marrickville streetscape. There was more concrete behind me.

 

The moment of eye contact

Now I turn around and show you my back.

I ride up & down the Cooks River often & I am always on the lookout for birds. So, it was with great delight that I watched what I thought was a darter doing a magnificent display in the middle of the river.

It appeared to be washing.  Once the bird realised that it was being watched it became more demonstrative literally heaving itself out of the water, using its tail feather like a rudder & flapping its massive wings.    It did a range of movements for approximately 3-minutes.  Once it finished, it lifted itself out of the water & flew downriver.

Once home I got to have a closer look at my photographs & decided it looked more like a great cormorant than a darter.  An ornithologist friend confirmed my identification.

I am sure others have seen great cormorants on the river, but for us, this was a first-time sighting.

The great cormorant is an excellent swimmer.  It chases fish by propelling itself underwater with its feet  & holding its wings close to its body.  It can stay underwater for up to one minute.

The more we take care of the river, the more we are rewarded with sights like this.

Getting ready

I am about to stand up

A bad photo unfortunately. Those wings were beating fast. Look at the strength to rise up out of the water like this.

And here I come down into the water again. Look at those beautiful wings.

The worst day of the Cooks River I have ever seen. This was everywhere….slowly floating down the river towards Botany Bay. Photo taken May 16 2016.

Finally, a container deposit scheme has started in NSW.   It has been a long time coming.  Called ‘Return and Earn,’ drink containers can be taken to a collection point for a rebate of 10 cents for every container returned.

A sickening 160-million drink containers become litter in NSW every year.

We are used to seeing plastic bottles in the Cooks River & caught in the mangroves.   It would be fantastic not to have this visual blight in the river & all the associated problems these drink containers cause wildlife, so let’s embrace this.

You can find a collection point here – http://www.returnandearn.org.au

A section of Landing Lights Wetland.

Today is an excellent day!  I came home to a letter from Bayside Council in response to my submission opposing the 100-hectare development application for Barton Park & Landing Lights Wetland.

Developer John Boyd Properties wanted to build 5,000 new high-rise dwellings in what is currently the Kogarah Golf Course.  They would rebuild the golf course in the wetlands & add a sweetener of a new St George Stadium sports stadium.  Part of the heritage listed & fully functioning Arncliffe Market Gardens was to be claimed for the development as well.

The letter said – “Please be advised that the applicant has decided not to proceed with the development & accordingly the application has now been withdrawn.”

How wonderful is that!  The migratory birds that fly all the way from Siberia say thanks.  The Green & Gold frog say thanks.  All the numerous other birds, animals & insects that call this remnant wetland home say thanks as well.   If the community sat back & did nothing, I expect this development would have gone through, but they did not.

Thank you to all who opposed this development application.  Now there is a chance that this vitally important part of Botany Bay can be left for the wildlife & for the many in the community who enjoy spending time in such undeveloped areas bursting with nature.  To keep this precious area is so wonderful.

Bayside Council wrote the following on their website –

  • “Although highly urbanised, the City has retained several small bushland and wetland areas which play an important role in terms of providing food, habitat and shelter for native animals. These areas are deemed to have ‘conservation value’ (meaning they are worth preserving for future generations) because they represent ecosystems that would otherwise be lost.”
  • “These remaining natural areas are home to particularly diverse, endangered and/or vulnerable species of flora and fauna.  A total of 180 native plant species and over 90 vertebrate species of terrestrial animals (not including marine fish) have been identified in the City’s bushland and wetlands.”
  • “Landing Lights Wetland (also known as Riverine Park Wetlands), located at Spring Street, Banksia is one of Council’s most environmentally significant natural areas. The site contains some of the last remaining saline wetlands on the Cooks River and includes vegetation identified as threatened under NSW legislation (salt-marsh).”
  • “The wetlands have aesthetic, heritage and environmental value. They form part of a system of tidal and freshwater swamps, and provide important habitats for a variety of animal and plant species, including common wetland birds and a number of protected migratory birds.”

I last wrote about this development application here – http://bit.ly/2jey4Xi

Letter regarding the Cook Cove Precinct DA

 

Little Black cormorant, a couple of gulls and a plastic bag at Fatima Island in the Cooks River. Look and you will see plastic bags caught in the branches of the mangroves all along the length of the river.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan stated that WA will ban single-use plastic bags from 1st July 2018.   The war against plastic bags is catching with Western Australia joining the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania & the Australian Capital Territory who have all decided to make their state & territory single-use plastic bag free.

Clean Up Australia says,

  • “It is estimated worldwide that 1 trillion bags are used and discarded every year.
  • Australians use an estimated 5 billion plastic bags a year, that’s over 20 million new bags being used every day. 
  • An estimated 3.76 billion bags or 20,700 tonnes of plastic are disposed of in landfill sites throughout Australia every year.
  • Australians dump 7,150 recyclable plastic bags into landfills every minute or 429,000 bags every hour.
  • It is estimated that around 50 million bags enter the Australian litter stream every year. Unless they are collected, they remain in the environment and accumulate at a staggering rate. If these 50 million plastic bags were made into a single plastic sheet, it would be big enough to cover the Melbourne CBD.”

Plastic bags are made from crude oil – a finite source.  To create enough plastic bags for humans to use over a 12-month period requires 100 million barrels of oil.

It is also estimated that it will take each plastic bag approximately 400-years to biodegrade, which is disgusting when you think of the 1 trillion bags that are used & discarded every year worldwide.

Plastic bags often end up as litter & enter our waterways & oceans.  Once there, they are mistaken for jelly fish by some seabirds & turtles who eat them, then suffer blocked gastrointestinal tracks & basically starve to death.

Birds often try to use the bags as nesting material.  If the bag gets caught around their beak, wings or legs, it can prevent them from eating, cause an infection, amputate their feet or toes killing them quickly or painfully slowly.

Plastic bags, like all plastic, breaks down into micro-particles & is eaten by birds, animals & fish, entering the food chain.  It is expected that there will be more plastic by weight in our oceans than fish by 2050.  This is a terrible legacy to be leaving future generations.

The environment needs us to dump plastic bag use, as do the wildlife & also for ourselves, as ingesting micro-plastics will have a negative impact on our health.

2017 research by the University of Ghent in Belgium “believe Europeans currently consume up to 11,000 pieces of plastic in their food each year & that 99 percent of them pass through the body, but the remaining 1 percent, which equates to about 60 particles, is absorbed into the body’s tissues and will accumulate over time.”  http://bit.ly/2jURaFc

A few years ago, I asked Marrickville Council whether they would consider banning plastic bags in the municipality & was told something along the lines that the issue had been considered, but it was felt it would not work because people would just go buy plastic bags from the supermarket.  However, the culture is changing & with whole states/territories across Australia having made the decision to ban single-use plastic bags, it will not be too long before we can expect NSW & the other states to follow their example.  I think we can realistically expect the Inner West Council to embrace this initiative now or very soon.  They could follow Western Australia with a July 2018 start.

There is already ground root aspiration to make the Dulwich HilI shopping strip plastic bag free with local volunteers busy making shopping bags for the Boomerang Bags initiative either at home or meeting at Reverse Garbage for monthly sew-a-thons.  It is highly commendable & I wish it would take off for all our local shopping strips & Marrickville Metro who gets through something like 24,000 bags every week.  Don’t quote me though.  It may be 24,000 bags every day.  You can see the signs about plastic bag usage on the pillars in the Metro car park.

Plastic bags can’t be recycled the usual way because the they jam machinery at recycling depots.  They can however be taken to the REDcycle collection bins at the supermarket for recycling into plastic signs & outdoor furniture.  However, if all the plastic bags were recycled this way, there would be excess of what is needed for signs & furniture, so better not to use them at all.

Ultimately I believe we will be forced to stop using single-use plastic bags, so we might as well embrace the alternatives before this happens.   Shopping bags are super easy to make & cheap to buy.  The hardest thing will be to remember to take them with us, but even that will become second nature in a very short while.

Shaw Street Petersham has not changed much since I lived here almost 40 years ago. I’ve always found it to be a beautiful street not only because of the houses, but because of the wonderful tall street trees.  

My very first experience of public green space is my street. ~ Dr Libby Gallagher.

Recently, ABC Radio National program ‘The Money’ by Richard Aedy did an episode on the costs & benefits of streetscapes & their value.  Guests were –

  • Associate Professor Michael Andreu – School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida.
  • Dr Libby Gallagher – Landscape architect and director of Gallagher Studio.
  • Dr Lyndal Plant – Urban Forester Pty Ltd.
  • Roger Swinbourne – Technical Director at AECOM.

Roger Swinbourne listed the following benefits of street trees – air quality, providing shading, biodiversity, water quality, winter temperature variations, average heat wave temperatures are all impacted by the quantity of trees we have in our cities.

The study showed a whole other list of values the street trees provided.  There is a strong link to the canopy and the mental health of the community.  Canopy coverage also helps mitigate air pollution.

Shade really matters.  A canopy increase from 20% to 28% lowers the air temperature by 4-degrees & road/pavement temp by 14-degrees, which is pretty substantial.

The net benefits of street trees outweigh the costs of infrastructure issues such as lifting footpaths.

Dr Libby Gallagher did research in Brisbane that found that houses in leafy streets sell for higher prices, but how much higher was dependent on the amount of canopy cover those trees provided.  The houses were 4% more expensive.

An Australian property developer listed a good tree-lined street as number 1 of what people were looking for when buying.

Then Dr Libby Gallagher spoke about the Cool Streets program held at Blacktown City Council.  It was found that a mix of evergreen & deciduous & more trees boosted property & lowered electricity bills.  Initially the residents chose small trees.  After seeing the benefits of large canopy trees to their electricity bills & health, they chose taller trees & more trees more densely planted along the street.  The residents also contracted to water and care for the trees.  They took ownership of those trees because they helped plant them & because they know the significant benefits those trees will bring them once they have grown.

Associate Professor Michael Andreu spoke about Tampa costing the value of all their trees, which came to a massive $35 million.   He also spoke about development & trees.  The city quantifying the urban forest allows everyone to understand the use of the trees & how much these trees contribute.  It helps the city explain to developers why they cannot just chop trees down.  The information they have about their trees allows them to include them in infrastructure planning.  Singapore is one city that prioritizes their trees in planning.

40-metre tall street trees in Surry Hills were given as an example of trees that would not be planted these days.  Once these trees die they will likely be replaced by something much smaller & this is despite the enormous amenity these trees are providing now.

With more development happening now, trees are not being recognised for their amenity that they provide 24-hours a day.

You can listen to the program here –

http://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pel3NwJKgQ?play=true

Last week Los Angeles broke a temperature record held for 131-years reaching 36.6°C (98°F).  Sydney people might laugh responding with, “It’s a good day for the beach,” but Los Angeles has an average daily temperature of 22°C (71°F), so this was an extremely hot day for them.

Los Angeles temperatures like this are expected to triple by 2050 & so the City has set a target of lowering the urban heat island effect by three degrees by 2035.  “According to CalEPA, LA has the worst urban heat island effect of any region in California.”

“Excessive heat is deadly. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, difficulty breathing, cramping and general discomfort killed more people between 1979 and 2003 than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention.”  See – http://bit.ly/2ucsUE9

Los Angeles is one of only two cities in the world who have a temperature reduction target to reduce their urban heat island effect.  The other is Melbourne.

Los Angeles plans to do the urban heat island effect by –

  • Gradually replacing roofs with reflective materials, called ‘cool roofs.’
  • Repave or repaint city streets with reflective paint.
  • Plant more trees & increase the urban forest canopy. However, they did not mention using green walls & green roofs.  Perhaps these are seen as more transient & risky compared to solid hard surfaces such as albedo paint & tiles.

It all seems elementary & doable, which offers real hope.

The city aims to install 10,000 cool roofs by the end of this year – 2017.

“Beginning in 2014, LA has had a “cool roofs” ordinance, which requires anyone building a new roof or replacing more than half of an existing roof to do so with reflective shingles.”  I wonder if the Inner West Council has any green requirements like these for any new developments or roof replacements.  The former Marrickville Council did not when The Revolution building in Marrickville was built around 2012.  At a public meeting about the building the architect said that there was no requirement to add green features, so he did not.

After a trial of painting one city street in May 2017, the City of LA has painted 7 other blocks & aim to paint a block in all 15 council districts by the end of the summer.  They obviously mean business.

In March 2016 the former Marrickville Council did a trial of solar reflecting road surface paint in Cecilia Street Marrickville.   I have no idea whether Council has released information regarding the results. See – http://bit.ly/1Pyexc7

The City of LA also has a cool pavement program, aiming to have the urban heat island effect lowered by shade from street trees.  So, less heat, better health, more beauty & more happiness.  That is excellent in my opinion.

The building on the left is a relatively new development on Unwins Bridge Road St Peters. Many in the community were upset at the DA stage because of the trees that were to be removed. The DA was approved and the building built. I passed by recently was pleasantly surprised to see 4 good sized trees had been planted in Dabur Lane as part of the development. These are not token shrubs for landscaping, which is what we often see in new developments. Once grown these trees will help provide shade & supply the beauty & other benefits that only trees can offer.

The worst day of the Cooks River I have ever seen. This was everywhere….slowly floating down the river towards Botany Bay.

A 2-minute video by the NSW Environment Protection Authority titled ‘Hey Tosser – GPS tracked bottles’ shows how far plastic bottles travel along a range of waterways in Sydney, including the Cooks River.  It is quite incredible.

To watch – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QH7ZDl1_PE8

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