Street Trees and Urban Forests

Street Trees

Street trees are very important assets for councils. They make towns and cities beautiful, improve the air by removing carbon dioxide and returning oxygen, enhance property values and provide cooling shade. Some councils have tens of thousands of street trees, of over hundreds of different species, that are both native and exotic, evergreen and deciduous and range in age, size and condition.

Many councils have also developed Street Tree Master Plans to guide the council’s street tree planting program over the coming years and achieve, over time, an increase in the quality and quantity of the council’s urban canopy. The Master Plans usually provide a clear vision for the council’s streetscapes and ensures that species selected for planting are rigorously assessed to ensure the establishment of the “right tree or the right location”.

Urban Forests

The Local Government Association (LGA) annual conference 2003 endorsed an Urban Forest policy (PDF, 47KB) that promotes a vision for the future and principals of management for urban forests. The concept of the urban forest looks at urban trees and other vegetation as individual parts of the whole vegetation cover within a city. The Urban Forest Policy aims to improve urban forest planning, management and practices throughout NSW Local Government areas so that communities receive maximum benefit from their urban forest on all land, for an acceptable cost and in a manner based on the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD).

Urban Green Cover

The latest iteration of the Urban Forest concept is Urban Green Cover which integrates nature into the built environment solving a number of urban and climatic challenges. Urban green cover is a broad range of relatively low cost strategies to integrate green, permeable and reflective surfaces into cities and towns and may include:

  • Green roofs and walls.
  • Green streets including street trees, understoreys, bio-swales, median planting, permeable surfaces and/or light coloured surfaces and pavements.
  • Green open space including canopy trees to shade parks, paths, amenities and forecourts as well as green infrastructure such as rain gardens, soft landscaping of detention basins and stormwater channels and culverts.

Urban Green Cover provides multiple benefits such as:

  • Biodiversity protection providing important habitat and corridors for birds and animals.
  • Heat mitigation through transpiration, shade and passive cooling.
  • Energy efficiency by reducing the need for air conditioning in offices and homes.
  • Improved air quality.
  • Water absorption capturing stormwater and reducing peak flows and improved water quality.
  • Noise reduction.

The NSW Government has produced  Technical Guidelines for Urban Green Cover in NSW (PDF, 15MB) to provide advice on best practice.

LGNSW advocates to governments on behalf of our members – and assists our members with advice – on street trees and urban forest issues.