Higher density cities are the trend. Populations in Sydney and Melbourne are set to grow at exponential rates through to 2050, and investment infrastructure is focussed heavily on the capitals. People are replacing ‘space for place’.
Higher density cities mean an increase in subdivisions, and the removal of vegetation from private property. Coupled with consumer demand for larger sized housing resulting in larger residential footprints at the expense of traditional backyards, the net effect is that the bulk of the urban forest (the collection of all trees and vegetation in and around a town or city) is shifting from private property to nature strips, and open public spaces.
According to Shinkfield (2016) “The great Australian backyard is now a political imaginary place. For most Australians it is non-existent. The new backyard is the street and the park, places which make provision for friendship, engagement, play, productivity, forest and ecologies. What is required is a re-crafting of the public realm which will recreate this urban frontier and make it more amenable to the new style of living in our cities.”
Trees are a critical element in this equation due to their numerous benefits, and the community has a broad understanding and acceptance of these benefits.
Most people think trees are good and want to care for them. It is not surprising that there is growing community concern over retention of urban vegetation, particularly in relation to development pressures.
As David Nowak stated (Clark, 1997), “People want and need to direct the renewal process because natural regeneration does not meet most urban need.” Urban forests cannot be sustained by nature, they must be sustained by people.
The question is how do we protect what we’ve got and plant what we need for the future?
The protection of urban trees and other natural resources is greatly influenced by the importance assigned to the rights of the individual versus society. A widespread appreciation for trees exists throughout the world, but societal consensus on their protection varies enormously (Profous & Loeb, 1990).
According to Profous and Loeb (1990) “Countries and cities which have instituted public relations programmes indicate greater success in tree protection efforts. Education is considered a strong component of tree protection in most countries, although few cities or countries have adopted comprehensive programmes to avoid the compliance problems caused by a lack of public awareness and understanding.”
In the last 12 months, Tree Logic has worked closely with local government to develop and implement education programs to improve the community’s knowledge and understanding of the value of trees and urban tree management.
Trees are dynamic organisms and it is difficult to regulate living plant life and the environment they are growing in. There is not going to ever be a solution to how a community protects an appropriate tree, however, incentivising the community about trees and providing more positive messages about trees must be a step in the right direction.