“Managing the existing and planning the future tree stock in cities is easier when we consider trees as our common responsibility”. This is one of Malmö’s visions described in the new Tree Strategy, which we (a team of researchers at Lund University) chose to set under our microscope to explore how it will be further developed and implemented to address some of the sustainability challenges the city is facing.
Trees in urban environment have several benefits; for Malmö the following are of high priority. Trees have positive impact on people's physical and mental health, such as lowering stress levels and blood pressure and stimulate children into active play. Trees can also contribute to create a comfortable climate by providing shade, filtering air and reducing wind velocity. Trees are part of our cultural history, by telling us about our former living conditions. They help us better connect to the city as our living place. Last but not least, trees help to create a variety of different urban ecosystems and are thus important for preserving and developing biodiversity, which is often mentioned as one of the main sustainability challenges in the city. (Malmö’s tree stock was dominated by elms for many decades, but some 30 years ago due to an elm disease a large percentage of Malmö’s trees stock disappeared. We can still see gaps in Malmö’s tree stock.) These are some of the key reasons why Malmö chose to consciously work with trees again.
Working with trees however requires the involvement of all of us. In Malmö a lack of responsibility towards trees as a common resource can be observed. Trees are seen as obstacles in city planning and a source of citizens’ complaints rather than a source of appreciation and joy. Malmö’s Tree Strategy not only aims to increase biodiversity, but also to create a positive attitude towards urban trees. Besides the quantitative targets, which include planting 1,000 trees of 50 different species annually for the next five years, there are several activities promoting this change in attitude. Changing our views on trees and seeing them as a common resource are key components of the strategy. An innovative part of the strategy is that it requires interaction - from continuous collaboration of different administrative bodies and municipal departments, business participation, and citizens’ involvement. Planning and managing trees are to be included in detailed city plans and mobility plans both on public and private land. One of the recently launched activities for citizens’ involvement is a mobile app (Curio: explore, discover, share trees) that enables users to find all the trees planted in public spaces in Malmö and allows them to add and modify data in the database.
The Tree Strategy is currently under development. If it gets political approval, it will be implemented from the beginning of next year. We at Lund University are following the development of the Tree Strategy (and a couple of other innovative nature-based solutions in Malmö) and will post back later with some more insights based on our case study research.
Bernadett Kiss is a Researcher at Lund University working on the NATURVATION project.