Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd International Conference on Urban Tree Diversity in Melbourne. Held at the MCG (never been there so now I know what they are talking about when it’s mentioned in the news!) this conference gave me a really unique perspective of trees in the urban environment and the different pressures that we place on them. This time I presented a poster on my research into the critically endangered regional ecosystem Melaleuca irbyana (swamp tea-tree) – this is my poster:
I learned so many new things at this conference – it would be impossible to name them all but here are a few of my personal highlights. Did you know that a tree needs at least the size of its crown in below ground soil space if not double to be functionally stable! Many mature trees in built up cities (e.g. Hong Kong) are faced with smaller and smaller rooting areas and as a result die or fall over (sometimes tragically killing pedestrians). In Hong Kong where less than 1% of the population has their own personal garden these trees are highly valued by the community and hence taking good care of them is really important.
I was also really impressed with Melbourne City Council’s Urban Forestry Program. This program has used cutting edge GIS technology to map, document and update information on all of the trees located in Melbourne city – so you can track the trees in your neighbourhood – find information about the species and whether the tree is healthy or in decline – to see their interactive maps click Melbourne Forest Visual. AND you can even email a tree! Yes that’s right you can email a message to your favourite tree and/or report damage to your favourite tree directly to the Council. I was fascinated by this and it surprised me that the response from the people of Melbourne City was overwhelmingly positive with many residents sending poems and love letters to their favourite trees!
But why should we care about urban trees? Well, they provide free air conditioning for one! And they are in decline, after the millennium drought many of the urban trees for example in Melbourne went into decline and died so we lost them – but these trees are important! It has been shown that walking in a park with trees enhances our wellbeing (see ‘Why a walk in the woods really does help your body and soul’) they provide free air conditioning to our cities and suburbs and they provide shelter and shade to both us and other wildlife and don’t forget that little thing we breathe oxygen! So many reasons to love trees – I hope this post inspires you to go hug a tree!