What is an Urban Forest?

Urban forest is the collection of trees, shrubs, groundcovers and wetlands on public, private and institutional land within a Local Government Area. In 2008 Council adopted an Urban Forest Policy that set out goals and objectives to sustain and maximise the benefits of Newcastle's urban forest on an inter-generational basis.

Benefits of Trees

  • Trees beautify our community - People enjoy the shade and aesthetic beauty of trees in parks, along streets and in front of buildings.
  • Trees improve our air - They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and return oxygen back to the atmosphere. They also remove air pollutants such as sulpher dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and minute toxic particles that come mostly from diesel exhausts. Trees provide real benefits towards improving air quality and reducing human contributions to climate change.
  • Trees protect our water - Trees reduce the toxic effects of first-flush stormwater by reducing the volume of runoff water. Tree roots keep soil porous so rainwater soaks in instead of running immediately into creeks. Trees absorb the first 30% of most precipitation through their leaf system, allowing evaporation back into the atmosphere. This moisture never hits the ground. Another percentage (up to 30%) of precipitation is absorbed back into the ground and taken and held onto the root structure, then absorbed and then transpired back to the air. Some of this water naturally percolates through soil and replenishes aquifers. Stormwater run off, soil erosion and potential flooding to urban properties is therefore reduced.
  • Trees can contribute to energy savings - Trees can keep summer temperatures lower and reduce the need for cooling devices by providing shade. Just one tree shading an air-conditioner in summertime can reduce household energy consumption. By shading heat-absorbing surfaces such as bitumen and masonry, trees reduce the ‘urban heat island’ effect that leads to higher urban temperatures.
  • Trees provide vital food and shelter for wildlife - Birds, insects and numerous other native animals depend on trees for their habitat, nesting and a food source.
  • Trees provide seasonal interest and natural beauty through foliage and their interesting leaf patterns, flowers, bark, fruit and canopy.
  • Trees provide a link to nature and a source of enjoyment.

These benefits and others are discussed in greater detail in the Newcastle Urban Forest Policy (PDF) and Newcastle Urban Forest Background Paper (PDF).