About our Urban Forest
An urban forest is defined as all the trees, shrubs and other vegetation growing across public and private land – including parks, reserves, private gardens, along railways and waterways, street trees and other green infrastructure such as green roofs and walls. While the urban forest accounts for all of these things, the most important and iconic element of an urban forest is its trees.
Trees provide shade, places for recreation and a sense of place and heritage. They also cool the city, capture rain, slow stormwater and provide habitat for birds and other animals. Key benefits of a healthy urban forest also include:
- Providing shading and cooler city temperatures.
- Reduced air pollution.
- Reduced stormwater runoff.
- Wildlife food and habitat.
- Carbon storage and sequestration.
- Reduced sun exposure and heat related illnesses.
- Encourages outdoor activity and use of open spaces.
- Improved community cohesion.
- Improved amenity and landscape aesthetics.
- Creates a sense of place.
- Provides a connection to nature.
- Improves mental wellbeing.
- Reduced energy costs through increased shade over buildings.
- Reduced degradation of infrastructure.
- Improved property values through enhanced neighbourhood aesthetics.
- More attractive retail and commercial centres.
Urban heat island effect
The urban heat island effect is a phenomenon where urban areas are hotter than surrounding rural areas. This is caused by increasing urban development where natural surfaces like bush or grassland are replaced with dry and impermeable surfaces such as concrete and asphalt.
The urban heat island effect can increase the length and intensity of heat waves, significantly affecting our health and comfort, as well as that of local wildlife and vegetation. Heat absorbed by hard surfaces by day is released at night, resulting in higher night time temperatures.
Reducing the heat island effect
Vegetation of all varieties helps reduce the heat island effect. For example, the shade provided by trees reduces the temperature of buildings and footpaths, and the surrounding atmosphere.
Transpiration (the process by which moisture is carried through plants from roots to small pores on the underside of leaves, where it changes to vapor and is released to the atmosphere) provides an additional cooling effect to the surrounding atmosphere.
Green roofs and walls shade and insulate buildings. They lower the temperature of a building which reduces the need to use mechanical cooling such as air conditioning - resulting in less energy consumption.
Large green spaces, like parks and gardens, are cooler than surrounding streets, especially if the areas are irrigated.
Biodiversity in the urban forest
Trees in our parks and open spaces provide habitat for local wildlife including the Tawny Frog Mouth, Superb Fairy Wren, Eurasian Coot and the Eastern Spine Bill.
Despite the urbanised landscape, the urban forest as a whole provides important habitat and food sources to help increase biodiversity and support natural ecosystems.
For more information visit our Biodiversity page.
Trees are a wonderful feature of our environment and vital to the health and well-being of our cities, people and wildlife.
However, in an urban setting, the volume of soil and water available to grow healthy trees is often restricted by adjacent infrastructure.
To improve the space and soil available to existing and new trees, we have (where possible) introduced structural soils in our footpath and road construction projects.
Structural soils are modified soils that support tree growth, and the surrounding infrastructure.
Structural soils have been introduced in a number of road and footpath reconstruction projects, including Mt Pleasant and Trinian Street. This project was one of the first of its kind in Victoria and demonstrates how we are delivering on our goal to seek innovative solutions to help grow our urban forest.