Trees in the city: 3 innovative tree planting initiatives

Trees in the city

3 innovative tree planting initiatives

Trees in the city

3 innovative tree planting initiatives

By Emily Jerome

Cities across the globe are using innovative tree planting initiatives and community engagement techniques to support biodiversity.

Planting millions of trees has been pushed as the one-stop solution for biodiversity loss and the climate crisis. But, does it live up to the hype? Researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) recently published a paper recommending that tree planting initiatives be thoughtful and well-planned. Otherwise, the researchers say there could be negative consequences including the displacement of native biodiversity, the destruction of non-forest ecosystems and overuse of water supply. As Dr. Kate Hardwich stated, “If you plant the wrong trees in the wrong place, you could be doing more harm than good.” Cities across the globe are using innovative tree-planting strategies and community engagement techniques to highlight the importance of biodiversity within urban areas. Here are 3 cities that are doing just that.

Person bike through city park
Photo by Michael Quinn from Michael Quinn/Canva

1. Melbourne, Australia

In recent years, Melbourne has caught the attention of municipalities worldwide for its focus on community engagement. In 2013, Melbourne developed the Urban Forest Visual, a map of the 80,000 trees growing within the city limits. It details the age, species and health of the trees throughout Melbourne’s roads and parks, as well as a tree-specific email address. While originally intended to help with monitoring tree health, the email inboxes were filled with thousands of love letters for the leafy residents. This display of appreciation and affection for Melbourne’s trees cemented the importance of trees in urban spaces. Melbourne has also bumped its native biodiversity by replacing European elm and London plane trees with native species such as eucalypts and lemon-scented gum trees.

Melbourne Australia
Melbourne. Photo by GordonBellPhotography from Getty Images/Canva.

2. Montréal, Canada

Since the early 2000s, tens of millions of ash trees in North America have been killed by an invasive beetle from Asia, the emerald ash borer. Most ash trees don’t stand a chance as this beetle kills 95% of ash trees it infests. In 2019 alone, 40,000 ash trees in Montréal were cut down due to the invasive beetle. But, local Montreal boroughs and non-profit groups have come together to give these felled ash trees a new life while engaging with the community. A recently developed program teaches job-seeking youth and adults to work with wood and in turn, they build flower boxes and public benches from the downed trees. As part of a $17 million initiative to rebuild Montréal’s tree canopy, the city has also launched an awareness campaign to increase public appreciation for ecosystem services delivered by trees. In collaboration with the David Suzuki Foundation, each tree planted sports a tag detailing its environmental and economic benefits. This includes the monetary value of each tree’s ability to sequester carbon dioxide, absorb atmospheric pollution and reduce energy costs over 40 years.

Red trees in montreal
Montréal. Photo by IsabelPoulin from Canva.

3. Singapore, Singapore

At the time Singapore announced its bid to become a “garden city” in 1967, it was wrought with pollution and its forests were decimated. The journey to become a biophilic city teeming with biodiversity began with recovering its lost forests. Approximately 55,000 new trees were planted by the end of 1970, but an important next step was engaging the public in restoring a healthy environment. In 1971, Tree Planting Day was announced as an annual event where Singapore residents volunteer to plant trees and learn about the importance of trees in nature. Now the city has more than 10 ecosystems thriving within its bounds. More recently, Singapore has used innovative art and sustainable design to inspire a greater connection and appreciation of nature. Since its completion in 2011, the Gardens by the Bay has become a globally recognized horticultural destination. Of particular note are the supertrees that tower up to 16 storeys above the gardens. Over 162,900 plants of more than 200 species scale up the supertrees creating an impressive display of biodiversity.

Supertrees of singapore
The supertrees at Garden by the Bay, Singapore. Photo by 463259 from pixabay/Canva.

How can you help?

1. Plant the right tree in the right place. Discover your local hardiness zone, select native trees to plant and follow the tree planting guide by Trees Canada.

2. Learn more about the invasive species in your area. One way to prevent the spread of invasive insects is to burn firewood where you buy it.

3. Keep tabs on your local ash trees. Report any signs of emerald ash borer infestations, including D-shaped holes in the bark and general declined health.

4. Volunteer for tree planting initiatives. For example, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has a Conservation Volunteers program where you can participate in tree plantings, invasive species removal and bird and butterfly inventories.

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