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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
On 15th September 2015 a Press Release from Marrickville Council said that they planted the last of 500 street trees the previous day, a Golden Penda. This is the first time that I am aware that Marrickville Council has published the number of street trees they got into the ground for the planting season. I am very pleased & thank Council for publicly releasing this information.
Mayor Gardiner said in the Press Release – “Trees are amongst Marrickville’s most important assets.” I can only agree.
In March 2015 I wrote about the ‘One Child One Tree’ initiative. I wrote –
“It is my belief that if you want environmentally responsible adults, you need to teach them the value of the environment while they are children.
This project is more than listening to words in a classroom. Being able to get their hands dirty while planting a tree actively connects the children to the environment & opens their eyes to the beauty & benefits of nature. It also instills a sense of pride & ownership. Being able to see that they have improved the visual outlook of the community, as well as provided food & habitat for wildlife would have an immense positive impact.” See http://bit.ly/1DK6SSN
Therefore I was very happy to read further on in the Press Release that earlier this year Marrickville Council decided they would participate in the ‘One Child One Tree’ initiative. As a community we should be proud of this. I would love to know just how many children we have in Marrickville LGA.
Council donated 70-mature trees to our local schools on National Schools Tree Day 2015. Again, this is terrific & will help green our municipality, as well as educating our children on the benefits of nature.
The Press Release also spoke about Council’s participation on National Tree Day on 26th July 2015. Reading this I realized that I have been remiss & had forgotten to post about the event in Tempe Reserve despite visiting the site later that day. I participated in the event at Sydney Park.
So better late than never –
Marrickville Council’s National Tree Day site for 2015 is on the left side & behind the kiosk that sits alone to the left of the saltwater wetland. A small section on the other side of the path behind the kiosk was also included.
Unfortunately, many of the wattle trees in Tempe Reserve had reached the end of their relatively short lives, as they had all been planted at the same time when the park was created. The kiosk was surrounded by a significant number of wattle trees. Every time we cycled past, another wattle tree was down or dying. The area looked like a war zone in the end with dead tree trunks & weeds everywhere, so it was a great choice of site for National Tree Day.
Council and/or the community planted 7 new trees & all were a good size, which I believe lessens the chance of vandalism. They were untouched 2-3 weeks ago when we last cycled past. I don’t know how many community members attended, how many plants or even what kind of plants were planted.
The site looks mulched & cared for. The new trees will look terrific once grown & will most certainly be visible from many vantages from across the Cooks River. They are all natives & therefore will be a source of habitat & food for local wildlife. My thanks to Council & also to the community who participated.
Councillor Chris Cornish of the City of Bayswater in Perth Western Australia has had a brilliant idea.
- He wants to “assign trees with a dollar value that must be taken into account in planning decisions, weighted according to the trees economic, environmental and health benefits.” See – http://bit.ly/1gl7gST
He believes this will have a positive impact on the loss of the urban forest due to development. Any tree that has to be removed should be regarded as an asset (which they clearly are) & therefore the developer must pay for the loss of the asset.
Much to my admiration Councillor Cornish sees trees as “a critical issue.” So do I. With climate change bringing with it a steadily rising urban heat island effect there will be a much higher risk of death due to heat.
Trees also have significant impact on human health. Trees filter pollution from vehicles. Areas where the canopy is not good have been shown to have an increase in heart attacks & respiratory illness. In a nutshell, trees are essential, not only for wildlife, but also for human beings.
Suffice to say that giving a dollar value to trees may go a long way to saving some of our urban forest, especially older trees. I hope assigning a dollar value to trees becomes the norm across Australia.
Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada already has plans to put a dollar value on both private & public trees. The city developed a database of all their 140,000 trees way back in 1990. This information is open access to the public & is updated weekly as new trees are planted.
Of interest, all their street trees undergo pruning every 8-years. The database does not include the 350,000 other trees in their parks. The city must look beautiful.
They want to expand the database to “quantify the annual “eco impact” of each tree, right down to how much it saves taxpayers in stormwater diversion, energy savings from shading, sequestration of carbon dioxide and filtration of pollutants.”
Vancouver’s urban forest canopy cover is 18%. It was 22.5% in 1995, but development & private tree removal has lowered the canopy cover “despite a mandate by [the] Mayor ….to plant 150,000 new trees by 2020 as part of their Greenest City Action Plan.” See – http://bit.ly/1OpHOtk
“The state’s electricity distributor has been accused of wilful vandalism by one of several Sydney councils frustrated by what they say is excessive pruning of street trees.” See – http://bit.ly/1NkD6dV
That’s a pretty strong start to a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the new pruning techniques used by Ausgrid that are causing considerable shock to the Sydney community.
It is interesting to read the comments of the Mayors of Sutherland Shire Council, Marrickville Council & Woollahra Municipal Council.
Ausgrid said, “Contractors were trained to prune to Australian standards to protect the health of the tree and to allow for annual regrowth, as part of a vegetation management that cost Ausgrid about $40 million a year.” And here is the threat – “Trimming trees more frequently would be inefficient and would add significantly to customers’ bills.”
From my observations Energy Australia came to my area to prune street trees every 7-8 years. When Ausgrid took over the reigns, pruning of street trees seemed to be happening every 18-months, though since last year, it appears that they do not prune every tree in the street. Thankfully, this stops the whole street looking like a war zone.
When Ausgrid started pruning street trees I thought this may just be a local problem. Lately I have been traveling around Sydney & have noticed that there are butchered street trees everywhere.
Part of the problem is inappropriate trees planted under power lines & the Councils are responsible for this. Ausgrid appear to be addressing the problem by making trees so ugly or unstable that they are unviable.
Many of our street trees are decades old & therefore valuable infrastructure. They should be managed with care until they need to be removed because of natural causes or some other reason, but not because they have been rendered unsafe or unviable because of Ausgrid pruning practices.
Many local councils are aiming to increase the urban forest because of the threats to livability caused by climate change. How are they going to get ahead when a large percentage of their street trees need to be removed or are rendered little more than poles with an insubstantial canopy? The community is paying the energy supplier to destroy their street trees & decrease their quality of life.
Ausgrid says they have to prune like this for our safety. Observation of the previous company‘s pruning practices is proof that such brutal & frequent pruning is not necessary.
When I talked to a pruning contractor & asked what he suggested as replacements, he said, “Shrubs or nothing.”
If you go to the suburbs of Port Macquarie you will see what streets look like when there are no street trees under power lines. I wonder whether the Port Macquarie community receives a discount in their energy bills because very little pruning of street trees is needed for this community? It would only seem reasonable.
Yes Councils can stop planting tall-growing trees under power lines, BUT a skilled pruner can prune taller trees making them safe without destroying the tree. You only need to go through the streets of Sydney CBD to know that this is achievable. Street trees of 3-4 storeys throughout the city streets have power lines going through or past the canopy, but the trees remain intact, tall & beautiful.
Ausgrid has a responsibility to the community to prune in a way that does not destroy their valuable infrastructure, their amenity & future livability with climate change. I have not even addressed the impact on wildlife.
One question which I have not had answered is why pruning of branches needs to be 1-metre below the telecommunications cable.
Magnolia are not only pretty, especially when in flower, but researchers have shown that “botanical extract honokiol, a biologically active molecule isolated from the bark of Magnolia spp. holds promise as an adjunct treatment for aggressive bladder and kidney cancers.”
Researcher Jun Yan found that “Honokiol significantly inhibited bladder cancer aggressiveness & tumour progression. 25-30% of patients with metastatic renal cancer cell line, 786-0 ….. have metastatic spread by the time they are diagnosed, with 5-year survival rates less than 10%.” Go the Magnolia tree! See – http://bit.ly/1VS5Wb8
A report on trees by the City of Melbourne Council says, “leafy streets boost sale prices by up to 30 per cent.” This is not at all surprising to me. http://bit.ly/1GIMGmr
This week more than 50 local councils will meet to learn how to grow & maintain an urban forest. The workshops aim is to increase the tree canopy to prevent increased temperatures due to the urban heat island effect & also to increase the physical/mental wellbeing of the community. Trees are very good for people.
Yesterday, the City of Melbourne with the Victorian government, released the Urban Forest Creation Guide to help local councils successfully increase & retain their urban forest. The Guide is an Australian first. I hope it is released to the public, as I imagine many would like to learn from this guide. http://ab.co/1KdBjY9
Eight mature Blackbutt trees have been poisoned in the garden of an apartment block on Homer Street Earlwood.
The apartment block has wonderful views, as it overlooks the Cooks River, Marrickville Golf Course & all the way to Sydney CBD. The trees are well-known to everyone who looks across the Cooks River from Marrickville & Dulwich Hill.
“The strata believes the trees were accidentally poisoned when land regeneration works were undertaken in April. A hired “bush regeneration specialist” used strong chemicals to kill weeds and unintentionally infected the gums, the spokeswoman said.”
I am wondering if the strata will take legal action against the “bush regeneration specialist,” alleging negligence & seeking compensation for the losses the property has now suffered.
Canterbury Council is investigating & taking tissue samples “to determine the cause of poisoning.”
“A council spokesman said the gums would not be cut down unless they started to pose a danger.” Let’s hope they turn these into habitat trees (see – http://bit.ly/1bTy5LW ) & also plant eight new gum trees very soon that will take the place of these trees when they finally do have to come down.
See – http://bit.ly/1BDQqsM
Australian singer Olivia Newton-John has launched the ‘One Tree Per Child’ initiative in Bristol England to increase their urban forest. See – http://bit.ly/17pJuRA
The ‘One Tree Per Child’ global campaign was launched in early 2013 by Jon Dee of ‘Planet Ark’ & ‘Do Something’ with Olivia Newton-John. The campaign’s aim is for every child in the world under ten to plant at least one tree as part of a school project.
Bristol is the first city to take on the challenge of ‘One Tree Per Child’ with 36,000 primary school students taking part. Not only do the children get to plant a tree, but they also receive education from experts about the environment.
Bristol City Council is covering the cost of the trees & tools. The school grounds will be planted first & the Council will find other sites for the remaining trees to be planted.
“Planting trees and shrubs is a great way for school children to connect to the environment & their local community. As a child’s tree grows, their commitment to the environment & their local community grows as well.” ~ Mayor George Ferguson, Bristol City Council. I think he is right.
I think this is a terrific initiative & the positive impact on the children taking part is likely to last a lifetime.
It is my belief that if you want environmentally responsible adults, you need to teach them the value of the environment while they are children.
This project is more than listening to words in a classroom. Being able to get their hands dirty while planting a tree actively connects the children to the environment & opens their eyes to the beauty & benefits of nature. It also instills a sense of pride & ownership. Being able to see that they have improved the visual outlook of the community, as well as provided food & habitat for wildlife would have an immense positive impact.
Children are busting to have the opportunity to plant trees. This is very evident every year when hundreds of children participate in planting trees on National Tree Day in Sydney Park.
I think it would be great for Marrickville Council to take part in the ‘One Tree Per Child’ initiative. Even if not all primary school students could take part due to lack of necessary funds, at least Year 6 of every school every year could. This is achievable & would help get our tree canopy above the woeful 16.3% that it is now.
The City of Melbourne has an interesting initiative that is showing that the community cares about its public trees. I first read about this last year & it seems to have taken off in the community’s mind.
The City of Melbourne’s Urban Landscapes Team had the quite brilliant idea that each of their 70,000 public trees be assigned an email address allowing the community to send an email if they had something to report regarding a tree.
This initiative did not cost much as the Council already had a comprehensive database on every one of their public trees. Every tree has its own ID number, so the community does not need to try & describe the location of the tree to the Council in any correspondence. The ID number provides Council with all the information they need about ythe tree, a bit like your medical file.
The initiative allows people to report problems with trees to the Council, but they also started receiving positive emails about particular trees & how the person writing loves them. In response, the Council staff began sending a reply email from the tree. How lovely is that!
I think this is a brilliant way of encouraging people of all ages to value the urban forest. I can easily imagine schoolteachers asking students to pick their favourite tree & to send an email listing all the reasons why they like it & thanking the tree for the benefits it provides. What an interesting way to get kids engaged & learn about the value of trees. Sending a reply could be fun for the Council staff too. See – http://bit.ly/1KdQZrh
The article also said that Eucalypts are Melbourne’s most common trees. Nice that they have an Australian native tree that provides a quintessential Australian look to the streets, as well as being a great food & habitat provider for wildlife.
The City of Melbourne also has a comprehensive & interactive webpage about their urban forest. It also allows you to explore the database, which is really excellent community engagement in my opinion. You can find it here – http://melbourneurbanforestvisual.com.au/