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Melbourne trees vulnerable in the future

08 Dec 2016

Melbourne trees vulnerable in the future Image

By Nadia Dimattina

Melbourne’s city streetscape is set to change after ground-breaking research has prompted the City of Melbourne to reassess which tree species it will plant in the future.

The City of Melbourne, in partnership with the University of Melbourne, has released new research that highlights the vulnerability of trees in Australia’s warming climate.

Principal researcher Dr Dave Kendal explored the vulnerability of tree species currently planted in the City of Melbourne and identified some potential new species that may be more suitable for the city’s climate future.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the City of Melbourne was using Dr Kendal’s research to select and trial new tree species in the city.

“The application of this research will lead the world in urban forest planning. 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,” he said.

The research found that 19 per cent of species growing now in the city were already temperature vulnerable.

It found that 35 per cent of trees would be vulnerable by 2040 and 62 per cent by 2090.

“Trees are a defining part of Melbourne but they are also vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” Cr Doyle said.

Elm trees lining St Kilda Rd in the Southbank precinct are one of the species that are struggling to cope with Melbourne’s rising temperatures.

“We have identified species that will struggle to survive in Melbourne in 100 years’ time, let alone thrive. These include deciduous trees from colder climates such as the Dutch Elm (Ulmus x hollandica), along with some species of indigenous Eucalypts,” Dr Kendal said.

Dr Kendal believes that change is essential in order to conserve Melbourne’s greenery.

“Climate change is likely to have a significant impact on many of the 375 tree species currently planted across the city. Some species will perform better, while some will perform worse.”

“We have reviewed 1729 new species for Melbourne, many of which will be suitable for Melbourne’s future climate realities,” Dr Kendal said

Trees identified as suitable for Melbourne’s future climate include the sub-tropical South American Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia), the Australian native evergreen Brush Box (Lophostemon confertus) and the indigenous Coast Banksia (Banksia integrifolia).

Earlier this year it was announced that hundreds of St Kilda Rd elm trees will be removed to make way for the proposed Metro Rail tunnel.

It has not been revealed what tree species will be planted to replace these matured trees.

However this proposal may be a head start into replacing St Kilda Rd’s elm trees with new climate suitable trees discussed in the Trees for Melbourne’s Future Climate research.

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