Melbourne, Australia, is getting hotter – because of a warming climate, and what is known as the urban heat island effect. Buildings, sidewalks, and streets all absorb heat and make cities hotter than the surrounding countryside. In an effort to cool the city, officials have begun planting trees. So far, they’ve planted twelve thousand toward a target of forty-two thousand.

Melbourne Councilor Arron Wood says this urban forest strategy was developed during record-breaking heat, a 13-year drought, and more intense rainfall events. With ongoing global warming, this extreme weather is expected to intensify.

Wood: “We’re getting less rainfall, but we’re getting much more intense rainfall events than we’ve ever had previously.”

In addition to cooling the city, the growing trees improve the soil and help absorb heavy downpours – which diminishes flooding. And it’s easy to gain public support for tree planting.

Wood: “A lot of people have really taken ownership of the urban forest and they’re really interested to know what new species will be planted; when will their street be renewed in terms of the urban forest.”

Considered one of the world’s most livable cities, Melbourne aims to stay that way – with the help of the trees.

Melbourne planned urban forest visual

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media/Julianne Warren.
Photo: A visual of the possible future “greening” of Melbourne (source: Urban Forest Strategy: Making a Great City Greener (2012-2032).

More Resources
Councilor Arron Wood
Urban Forest Strategy: Making a Great City Greener (2012-2032)
Australian Online Coastal Information
How coastal cities are preparing for and adapting to rising sea levels
Explore Melbourne’s Urban Forest
Open Space Strategy – planning for future growth

Sara Peach is the editor-in-chief of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist,...