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Dire predictions for Melbourne’s trees



June 17, 2014


Which of Melbourne’s trees will survive its galloping climate change? Latest figures show its average temperatures rising faster than predictions, and many of its trees are already struggling to survive.

Without radical intervention, modelling shows that more than one quarter of Melbourne city’s trees will not last another 10 years, many of them succumbing to heat stress. For those who don’t really understand climate change, a one degree change in average temperatures doesn’t seem like much. But for plants it’s devastating. You only have to look at how different whole plant communities are when there are only tiny changes (much less than 1°C) in temperature from one area to the next to see how sensitive they are.

Melbourne’s statistics are:

Average number of days above 35°C: 1990-1999 = 9 days ; 2000-2009 = 12 days

Average temperature increase is already 1°C, showing a faster increase than the CSIRO projected changes through to 2030.

Candles on Melbourne's hottest day, February 7, 2009. Photo Cuddy Wifter

Candles on Melbourne’s hottest day, 46.4 degrees C on February 7, 2009. Photo Cuddy Wifter

In answer, the City of Melbourne’s planners are hoping to take Melbourne completely carbon neutral by 2020, drastically reducing its energy consumption of high-emitting brown coal power, working to counteract the urban heat island effect and using urban planning to reduce both commuter and recreational travel. The City’s urban forest strategy aims to increase tree cover from 22% to 40% by 2040.

While it might seem surprising that the City of Melbourne is pushing ahead with its own climate change plan, head planner Professor Rob Adams says they don’t have a choice, given that state and federal governments are reducing their commitment to clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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