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Which trees survive climate change best?

If you’re looking for trees that won’t succumb to climate change go for jacarandas, native evergreen Brush Box and indigenous Coast Banksia, new research from the University of Melbourne and City of Melbourne suggests.

The Trees for Melbourne’s Future Climate research project investigated the vulnerability of the council’s current tree stock to climate change, and suggested species that might thrive better in a warming world, at least in the Melbourne region.

It found that 19 per cent of tree species planted in the City of Melbourne were already vulnerable to climate change, while 35 per cent could become vulnerable by 2040 and 62 per cent by 2090.

Principal researcher Dr Dave Kendal examined tree inventories from about 200 cities around the world to identify species that may be better equipped to handle expected changes caused from climate change, performing temperature vulnerability scenarios that included an average temperature rise of 0.8°C by 2040 and 3°C by 2090.

He said climate change would have a significant effect on many of the 375 tree species already planted in Melbourne, though there had been 1729 new species investigated through the research, “many of which will be suitable for Melbourne’s future climate realities”.

Those species found to be more resilient to temperature increases included jacarandas, Brush Box and indigenous Coast Banksia. Ones that didn’t fare well were deciduous trees from colder climates such as Dutch Elm, and even some species of indigenous Eucalypts and Acacias.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert said past experience of drought and the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 showed that new tree species suited to warmer temperatures needed to be planted.

“The application of this research will lead the world in urban forest planning,” Mr Doyle said. “We will use it to make evidence-based decisions about which trees we should plant now to ensure our urban forest thrives in future decades.”

The City’s Urban Forest Strategy states that the local government area should have no more that five per cent of one species, so finding a range of suitable species is important, particularly as the council ramps up planting to meet its 40 per cent tree canopy cover by 2040 target.

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