Green­life mat­ters

Ur­ban trees

Go Gardening - - Contents -

For stu­dents of hor­ti­cul­ture and land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture, there is no bet­ter way to learn about trees than to be sur­rounded by them. Unitec In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy is a fine ex­am­ple of this ethos. Its park like Mt Al­bert cam­pus, spread across 55 hectares, is home to a priceless col­lec­tion of trees and shrubs, in­clud­ing many that are his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant or rare.

Four years ago, recog­nis­ing the un­tapped po­ten­tial of this rich re­source, Se­nior Lec­turer in Land­scape Ar­chi­tec­ture Penny Clif­fin and her stu­dents set about es­tab­lish­ing the Unitec Ar­bore­tum.

An ar­bore­tum is a living col­lec­tion of plants and trees that can be used for sci­en­tific re­search and ed­u­ca­tion, as well as to con­serve and beau­tify an area.

Over 2000 trees and shrubs are now of­fi­cially named and cat­a­logued on the Unitec Ar­bore­tum web­site, www.unitec.ac.nz/trees. On cam­pus the most sig­nif­i­cant trees have been given in­for­ma­tive la­bels for the ben­e­fit of stu­dents and vis­it­ing mem­bers of the public.

A self-guided walk and de­tailed map can be found on the web­site. “If you don’t know the name of the tree but you know where it is on cam­pus, you can go to the map and find it there,” says Penny. “We felt that la­bel­ing the top 100 most in­ter­est­ing or rel­e­vant trees would be ef­fec­tive to start with.” The la­bel­ing sys­tem is the same as that used by Lon­don’s Kew Gar­dens. “Each la­bel has a QR code, so you can use your smart phone to link to the web­site and find out about the trees as you go,” Penny ex­plains.

The Ur­ban For­est

A key mo­ti­va­tion for the Unitec Ar­bore­tum project was to make more of the op­por­tu­ni­ties for teach­ing and re­search. Doc­u­ment­ing a valu­able col­lec­tion of trees also means it can be more eas­ily man­aged and main­tained. But, as Penny ex­plains, it doesn’t stop there; the po­ten­tial benefits of the project are far reach­ing.

Prior to the Ar­bore­tum project Penny did her Mas­ter’s de­gree on Auck­land’s tree col­lec­tions. Her depart­ment’s re­search goals ex­tend into the greater Auck­land re­gion.

“The Ar­bore­tum al­lows us to work on projects like the re­gional plan­ning of green in­fra­struc­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­sources, as well as the con­cept of an ur­ban for­est,” says Penny. “The next goal is to es­tab­lish a wider Auck­land data­base, which would help the Auck­land Coun­cil de­velop pol­icy around us­ing the ur­ban for­est to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of cli­mate change.”

“When trees ab­sorb car­bon diox­ide, then turn it into car­bo­hy­drates in their struc­ture, so it’s no longer in the air, they ob­vi­ously pro­vide a mit­i­ga­tion ef­fect against green­house gases be­ing re­leased into the at­mos­phere. So the more trees we have, the bet­ter.”

“There’s lots of re­search about how much, and how [cli­mate change] varies across cli­mates, and across for­est types. There’s also re­search on wa­ter ab­sorp­tion, soil sta­bil­i­sa­tion, storm pro­tec­tion and tem­per­a­ture re­duc­tion. If they know how many trees they have and can mea­sure the benefits, the coun­cil can more ef­fec­tively plan the fu­ture of Auck­land’s ur­ban for­est.”

Go Gar­den­ing thanks Unitec’s Ad­vance mag­a­zine for their con­tri­bu­tion to this ar­ti­cle.

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