UTS researchers tackle Australia's first urban tree analysis

Picture by Terry Clinton

Picture by Terry Clinton

In summary: 
  • The CBDs of Hobart, Brisbane and Darwin are the greenest according to an Australian-first analysis of urban tree cover by UTS's Institute for Sustainable Futures
  • The report is supporting an initiative to increase Australia's urban green space by 20 per cent by 2020

A first-of-its-kind research report conducted by UTS's Institute for Sustainable Futures has found Hobart, Brisbane and Darwin's central business district councils lead in urban greening, with the highest percentage of tree canopy cover compared to the two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.

With urban green space throughout Australia in decline, the report Where Are All The Trees has been commissioned by 202020 Vision, a collaborative initiative between business, governments and community groups to increase green space in urban areas by 20 per cent by 2020.

"No one has ever before conducted a national analysis that has tracked and measured the number of trees in Australia's most dense urban areas which makes this report significant," said Dr Anthony Kachenko, Research and Market Development Manager, National Urban Forest Alliance.

"Currently businesses and governments across all levels are looking to mitigate the critical effects and costs of significant changes to the climate, lowered productivity, environmental degradation and ill-health, such as obesity and mental illness.

"Extensive global research shows maintaining and increasing high-quality green space in cities has a wide range of improvements to our environment, productivity and society. Benefits such as reduced pollution, improved air quality decreased utility costs, more efficient water management, increased commercial productivity, better health and wellbeing outcomes, and more cohesive community spaces.

"This report tells a story of hugely complex planning, geographical and climate-related factors that challenge councils, business and communities in this sector every day," Dr Kachenko said.

The ISF utilised software called i-Tree Canopy to analyse the amount of tree canopy cover in 139 of Australia's most urban local government areas, which are home to 68 per cent of the population.

Outside of Australia's CBD council areas, the areas that demonstrated the highest amount of tree canopy cover were Cairns, Launceston and Townsville.

ISF research consultant Candice Moy, one of the report's authors, said i-Tree Canopy was a low-cost, rapid method to provide a baseline estimate of tree cover to help catalyse social change in Australia's urban areas.

"We also analysed grass and bare ground coverage such as lawns, industrial estates and sporting grounds, as well as hard surfaces such as buildings, asphalt, water and coastlines," Ms Moy said.

"Importantly, this research shows where there are significant opportunities for councils to turn older industrial areas into community parklands, or encourage more green rooftops on buildings.

"The reality is, for a number of these councils with the least amount of tree canopy cover there may already be strategies in place to develop and increase it, but the report and i-Tree Canopy software can be utilised for free by anyone wishing to understand tree canopy cover more deeply," Ms Moy said.

The report can be downloaded at:  http://202020vision.com.au/trees