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Tree coverage thin in Melbourne’s west compared to east

Melbourne’s western region is largely missing out on the cooling, air purifying and biophilic benefits of urban tree cover when compared to the city’s east.

Recent “greenprinting” done by Resilient Melbourne and The Nature Conservancy in a bid to protect the city’s urban canopy found that although 15 per cent of Melbourne is covered in trees, there is significant disparity in canopy coverage between the regions.

The eastern region has the highest canopy cover (25 per cent), followed by the inner south-east region (22 per cent) and the western region (4 per cent).

Land surface temperatures were also measured during the mapping exercise, with areas that have less than three per cent vegetation cover and no tall trees generally hot spots for sky high temperatures caused by the urban heat island effect.

The recently released Living Melbourne: our metropolitan urban forest has made Melbourne one of the first major cities – and the first in Australia – to map its greenery on a metropolitan scale.

“We’re all familiar with the concept of blueprints for planning buildings and streetscapes but here we’ve created a greenprint for all of Melbourne—a plan for protecting and enhancing an urban forest for an entire metropolitan area,” said Pascal Mittermaier, managing director of Global Cities at The Nature Conservancy.

The complete audit will help protect the city’s plant life from encroaching threats, including the climate emergency and increasing density.

By understanding where Melbourne’s 70,000 trees exist and why, councils and other parties have a better idea about what can be done to protect and expand urban forests.

“Nature doesn’t care about municipal boundaries, which is why it was so important for us to collaborate with Melbourne’s 32 councils, the Victorian government and other authorities to ensure a consistent approach to protecting and growing our urban forests,” City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.

The strategy includes six recommended actions to protect Melbourne’s trees, including scaling up greening in the private realm and funding the protection and enhancement of the urban forest. 

“Melbourne needed a plan to reverse this current and predicted future tree decline and sustain Melbourne’s liveability for people and nature,” said Cathy Oke, councillor for the City of Melbourne. 

“If we are to protect our existing urban forest and enhance it into the future so that the people and wildlife of Melbourne can always enjoy it, we have to have a coordinated, connected-up strategy to manage it across the entire metropolitan Melbourne area.”

The release of the strategy follows the Victorian government’s $154 million budget injection into green space – 6500 hectares of new parkland, walking trails, bike trails, pocket parks and dog parks in suburbs like Officer, Clyde, Craigieburn, South Morang and Carrum.

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