Australia, China or USA - Which is More Urbanised?
Developing an urban forest strategy for Melbourne.
Home to big sports and fancy coffees, the best in health and education, astonishing food choices and entertainment for every taste – cities are increasingly the preferred habitat for humans. And while many have perhaps romantic colonial notions of us being a typically bushwhacking bunch Down Under, Australia is, in fact, one of the most urbanised countries in the world. That’s right, 90% of Aussies live in cities compared to 82% in the USA and just 56% in China.
But with all the thrill and convenience of city life, comes some all-too-familiar disadvantages as well – noisiness, pollution and an unwelcome prevalence of overheated concrete and bitumen that lacks greenery in which to enjoy nature and relax.
With smart planning, however, nature can offer a cost-effective solution to many of these problems. Our research (Planting Healthy Air) confirms that having more trees in the urban environment brings us better air, soil and water quality; significantly reduces heat; improves mental health and wellbeing; reduces aggression; and improves property value. And of course, more trees, means more important habitat for urban wildlife and all those recreating urban humans too.
That’s why we’re working in conjunction with the global 100 Resilient Cities program, Resilient Melbourne, the Victorian Government, developers, planners, communities and 32 local governments, to develop a comprehensive Urban Forest Strategy for greater metropolitan Melbourne. In the strategy, we hope to cover not just trees, but all types of vegetation in Melbourne’s parks, gardens, river and creek corridors, wetlands, street and railway corridors, backyards and community gardens.
Building on the successful impact our cities projects continue to have across the United States, our first urban project in Australia will provide an evidence base to inform future planning for an even more liveable and sustainable city.
Specifically, by June 2019, the Urban Forest Strategy for Melbourne will:
- Provide a catalogue of the natural assets and resources of a bustling, growing city.
- Determine how urban greening can be optimised to benefit biodiversity and support vital ecosystem services.
- Draw together the supporting evidence that urban greening can lower heat; assist the treatment and reuse of stormwater runoff; mitigate flooding; improve mental health, neighbourhood pride, physical activity and increased urban amenity; and enhance property values.
Once complete, we hope to be able to adapt and apply the model developed to other Australian cities, enriching the lives of millions of people.