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London secures £2m of funding for urban street trees

The View from The Shard, London, United Kingdom

In exciting news, London has been granted over £2m of funding by the Forestry Commission from the Government’s Urban Tree Challenge Fund to plant over 7000 street trees across the capital. The funding was secured in collaboration with London boroughs, who will plant and maintain the new trees across 20 boroughs.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has matched funding from the Forestry Commission with over £1m from the Mayor’s Greener City Fund. This is alongside £280,000 from the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone, and £1m from participating boroughs. As a result of the funding, 2,898 trees will be planted in London by end of March 2020 and a further 4,040 trees will be planted next winter.

London’s trees are estimated to provide at least £133m of benefits to Londoners every year. They help improve air quality by removing 2,241 tonnes of pollution annually.

Mayor Khan said, “I’m doing everything in my power to make London zero-carbon and one of the greenest, most sustainable cities in the world. London’s trees are the lungs of our city and they can make a real difference improving quality of life in local neighbourhoods. Simple steps like planting trees help us address the climate and ecological crisis. These additional street trees and improvements to green spaces are targeted in areas where they’re most needed. As the world’s first National Park City, we will continue our bold action to preserve and increase tree coverage across London.”


50-year strategic vision for urban trees across Bendigo under review

Poppet Head Lookout, Gaol Road, Bendigo VIC, Australia

A draft of a new 50-year strategy to increase urban shade and protect significant, heritage trees has been recommended to City of Greater Bendigo councilors. ‘Greening Greater Bendigo’ is part of the Community Plan 2017-2021 and provides a 50-year strategic vision for how urban trees and green infrastructure will be planned and implemented across the Bendigo region.

Primarily it aims to increase vegetation cover and shade across Greater Bendigo’s urban areas in order to decrease the urban heat island effect that plagues built-up areas with warmer temperatures versus the rural parts of Bendigo. Currently, only 16% of urban Bendigo enjoys tree cover. ‘Greening Greater Bendigo’ aims to increase tree cover to 25% by 2030 and 35% by 2050, offering a multitude of physical and mental health benefits to residents.

Priority actions include:

  • A 10-year tree planting program to increase tree cover and replace expected tree losses
  • Precinct plans to guide tree planting and green infrastructure planning in urban areas and townships
  • A 10-year action plan to review how significant trees and landscapes can best be protected
  • Achieving an establishment rate of 95% for newly-planted trees by 2030

The draft strategy is currently and open for feedback.


Plans for Abu Dhabi’s first urban forest revealed

Plans for the first urban forest in Abu Dhabi have been revealed as part of efforts to help residents connect with nature. Al Reem Island will be the site of a sprawling forest, The Reem Forest, one of hundreds intended to make the capital more liveable.

The forest will be a significant departure from the manicured lawns and carefully positioned palm trees that epitomize green spaces in Abu Dhabi. A self-sustaining wild forest, local trees that grow naturally in the Emirates will be used to minimise maintenance and achieve genuine biodiversity.

Rasmus Astrup, of Copenhagen-based architecture and landscape company SLA, said “For people who walk inside there is a forest track – it’s something that is a little inconvenient, a little dangerous, you have to walk on stepping stones in there. We want people to engage as much as possible with the nature. Of course, it’s not a forest like where I come from in Denmark. We have snow right now so it’s different. But it will have the feeling you get of being in a forest. There are no lawns, it is a park without any lawns. So it’s very different to what people are used to. We’re using only local species. Obviously it’s going to be interesting how people react to it.”

Andrew Grant, of UK-based landscape architect firm Grant Associates welcomed the initiative, saying, “There has to be a fundamental new way of thinking about landscapes in Abu Dhabi. I think Abu Dhabi has the opportunity, if they go with this in a really fundamental way, to really put a global exemplar out there to show how we can make our cities much more beautiful, nature-filled and attractive to live in.”


More green space, more sleep? The research says yes

About 12-19% of adults in Australia don’t get enough sleep, defined as less than 5.5-6 hours each night. But who’d have thought that the amount of tree cover in their neighbourhood could be a factor? The latest research has found exactly that, with people who live surrounded by ample green space much more likely to get enough sleep than people in areas with less greenery.

Why is this the case? Hypotheses suggest that green space might counter the impacts of noise and air pollution and cool local heat islands, all of which make sleep difficult. These benefits are especially important in disadvantaged communities where many households might not have air conditioning and underlying health conditions can increase vulnerability.

We know too that contact with nature provides opportunities for psychological restoration and stress reduction. The benefits are greatest if there’s more tree canopy and more biodiversity – such as a richer variety of birdlife. Since early results provided evidence of a link between green space and sleep duration in Australia, many more studies from various countries have reported similar results.

As well as providing adequate urban green space, we need to encourage people to use it in order to experience the many health benefits. Nature-based interventions that enable people to regularly spend more time in urban parks and woodlands are increasingly important as we become more and more dependent on technology. For now though, get out in the garden, take a restorative stroll through your local park or enjoy a picnic in a botanic garden… and improve your chances of a good night’s sleep!



New bill paves the way for urban forests in Korea

Expansion in urban forestation is vital for Korea, with a worrying 91% of the Korean population living in urban areas with insufficient greenery. For every person in Korea, there are 8.32 square meters of green land, which falls short of the 9 square meters per person standard set by the World Health Organization.

With revelations of various health and environmental benefits produced by urban forests, more citizens and companies have been actively participating in the nation’s urban forestation movement.

In the latest development, the National Assembly has passed a bill on the creation and management of urban forests, which will give momentum to the Urban Forest Development project overseen by the Korea Forest Service (KFS). Until now, the KFS and local governments have created and managed urban forests based on the Forest Resources Act. The new bill will strengthen the responsibilities of state and local governments. Heads of local governments will be required to make efforts to maintain and increase urban forest areas, while the state will be required to provide administrative and financial support.

Additionally, a legal basis has been laid to promote private participation. In order to reduce the financial burden on various levels of government, individuals, business and organisations will be encouraged to donate trees and land for the creation and management of urban forests.

Lee Yong-seok, Director of Urban Forest and Landscape at KFS, said, “The public is paying more attention to urban forests’ effectiveness on improving air quality due to fine dust.” 



Urban landscapes key to managing coronavirus stress

Coronavirus - trees

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe at a rapid rate, concern is rightly focused on our physical health. But what about the impact of such an event on our mental health? A saturation of fear-inducing media coverage coupled with the isolation of social distancing is a ripe environment for acute psychological stress and anxiety to grow.

As well as washing our hands and avoiding close physical contact with others to stop the spread, what can we do to protect our mental health? The benefits of getting outdoors and being in nature for mental wellbeing are proven and perhaps more important than ever.

We still need to keep our distance from others, but there are plenty of things we can do outside without being in close proximity to other people. A quiet walk through the bush. Sitting by a river. Gazing at an ancient tree. Feeling the sand between our toes on a secluded beach. Even being outside in our own backyards, earthing ourselves by walking barefoot on the grass. Being outside measurably lowers our stress levels within minutes which also – crucially at this time – increases our immune function.

For those living in urban areas, often in high rise apartments, proximity to nature is not always easy. So, now more than ever, our urban landscapes are so important. Inner-city parks, tree-lined streets and green walls can all be a source of comfort, calm and reassurance that Mother Nature will prevail and we too will endure.

The best tree species for reducing air pollution


It’s well established that urban trees reduce air pollution, along with a raft of other benefits. But when it comes to cutting pollution, all trees are not created equal. So, which species do the best job?

Recent research suggests that tiny hairs on plant leaves play a big role in trapping the solid and liquid particles that make up PM (particulate matter) which is responsible, by one estimate, for 8.9 deaths a year globally. In one recent study, Barbara Maher and colleagues at the University of Lancaster tested the ability of nine tree species to capture PM in wind-tunnel experiments. Silver birch, yew and elder trees were the most effective at capturing particles, with the hairs of their leaves contributing to reduction rates of 79%, 71% and 70% respectively. In contrast, nettles emerged as the least useful of the species studied, though they still captured a respectable 32%. Conifers, like pines and cypresses, are also good natural purifiers.

Ultimately though, it is context that determines if a species is beneficial or detrimental. “Even ‘best-performing trees’ may not work in some cases,” says Prashant Kumar, Founding Director of the Global Centre for Clean Air Research at the University of Surrey. “For example, we would not recommend planting yew near school playgrounds because it is poisonous.”

Stephanie Carlisle, an urban ecologist at the University of Pennsylvania, agrees, saying “Some designers have a tendency to think in terms of objects rather than a complex ecological system. But without a holistic understanding of urban ecosystems, the risk is to do more harm than good.”

In that sense, tree planting to tackle pollution is like many other aspects of urban design – the key to success lies in understanding local and environmental nuances. This is what determines whether urban trees are a breath of fresh air or a major headache.

Shepparton City Council encourages residents to look out for nature strip trees


In recent years, Greater Shepparton City Council has put a real emphasis on the importance of urban trees with its Urban Forest Strategy. In its latest push, the council has encouraged residents to keep an eye on the trees in their nature strips during summer’s sweltering weather.
While regular council watering programs are ongoing, even just a bucket of water poured onto nature strip trees will help them to survive long, hot days. Greater Shepparton Acting Manager of Parks, Sport and Recreation, Peta Bailey, said, “Tree planting is carried out from May to September so most new trees are well established before summer however consecutive days of high temperature can affect trees of any age. We plant species that are suitable for the environment and location with a mix of native and exotic species.
“Street trees are vital for providing shade and improving the aesthetics of our residential and urban areas so it is important to make sure they survive the hotter and dry months. The tree canopy plays a vital role in cooling the environment especially in urban areas with asphalt roads and concrete footpaths where they reduce the urban heat island effect. They can help cool a house by providing shade and reducing temperatures. They also provide shade and shelter for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Council has approximately 41,250 street and park trees in urban areas including Shepparton, Mooroopna, Tatura, Dookie, Murchison, Kialla and Toolamba. Under our Urban Forest Strategy, we aim to increase the tree canopy cover to 40 per cent resulting in many benefits to the community including more shade, public amenity, green spaces and overall a healthier environment for all of us to live in. So while you are watering your garden it would be great if residents could also provide some water to their street tree.”
Click here for more information on Greater Shepparton City Council’s Urban Forest Strategy. And great work, Shepparton, for continuing to put the focus on the importance of urban trees!

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