The following is an extract from Havant Borough Tree Wardens (HBTW), a voluntary group involved in the following activities: tree trails and publishing tree trail booklets, putting on tree exhibition, giving guided tree walks, giving talks about HBTW network, tree planting, seed collecting and planting projects with local (primary) schools, warning Tree Officer of threats to trees, supporting the establishment of TPOs (Tree Preservation Orders). Please contact them below for more information about this invaluable work.
Street Trees – A Love / Hate Topic
The intense sunlight during our recent summer was a powerful reminder that urban trees, particularly impressive mature trees, provide very welcome shade for pedestrians and drivers alike. Yet there are those who see street trees only as liabilities; expensive to maintain, likely to cause problems to hard surfaces and drains, and creating an annoying litter of dead leaves, seed cases, withered blossoms and untidy fruits. In the main, these people merely grumble about these natural processes and reminders of the seasons, but some are actively antagonistic, and demand that trees blocking their light or intruding into their space from the road side are pruned or removed altogether.
Luckily, there are people who champion their local trees: the Woodland Trust produces a Street Trees Celebration pack, the Big Tree Plant is a campaign to get more trees planted in neighbourhoods, and in places such as Helensburgh, residents club together to buy and plant new local trees. And, of course, Tree Wardens and other volunteer groups are dedicated local tree champions.
Street Trees Today
Apart from the obvious beauty of mature trees, shade is just one benefit from street trees and their vital role in making a liveable urban environment.
Other beneficial effects are:
Moderate urban extremes of temperature (heat, cold and wind)
Protection from ultra violet radiation
Screening from street noise and unattractive sights
Promotion of urban regeneration
An increase in nearby property values
Contribution to mental health and physical well-being
Provision of green corridors that bring wildlife into the heart of towns.
The Financial Value of Street Trees
A suite of open software developed in America, called i-Tree, maps urban trees to calculate the financial value of the “ecosystem services” provided by trees and beneficial effects listed above.
Torbay was the first British council to trial the software with UK company Treeconomics. Their assessment results showed that each year Torbay’s trees’ carbon storage capacity is worth £1.5m (which is equal to more than 98,100 tons of carbon) and their removal of 50 tons of pollution is worth £281,000. Treeconomics have run similar asset value exercises for London, Luton and Sidmouth, besides working with other groups to provide information on the Tree Canopy cover of many UK urban areas. http://www.treeconomics.co.uk/
As a result, assessment of the total tree canopy of many towns and cities in the UK is now accessible on the Urban Tree Canopy website - www.urbantreecover.org
Unfortunately, a quick comparison of similar sized urban areas surveyed shows Havant significantly lagging behind:
Havant Total Canopy Cover 10.8% Land area 1,051 hectares
Winchester Total Canopy Cover 27.4% Land area 916 hectares
Dorking Total Canopy Cover 34.3% Land area 467 hectares
Risks to Street Trees
Generally speaking, the UK is losing more trees than it plants. The Government has made a pledge to plant a million trees in towns and cities (through the Big Tree Plant campaign). The aim is to halt the decline in urban tree planting. There is urgent concern that mature broadleaf trees are under “severe threat” due to development, insurance pressures and public apathy. But, though the Government has, as part of the pledge, given councils new duties to consult with residents about local trees, budget cuts mean difficult decisions have to be made.