Council turns to technology on tree strategy

Trees will be mapped out across the borough, including Ward Park.

A NEW software programme that studies and assesses the benefits to the local ecosystem provided by the borough’s tree canopy has just been purchased by Ards and North Down Council.

The Treeconomics software will be able to calculate data from the role played by local trees in the fight against climate change and will form part of the council’s tree and woodland strategy.

Treeconomics will help produce a tree asset valuation report based on the council’s current tree data, which will quantify and highlight the ecosystem services provided by local trees. 

Council official Stephen Daye revealed the new initiative during May’s meeting of the Community and Wellbeing Committee as councillors assessed the progress of the strategy to date.

Green party councillor Lauren Kendall welcomed the increasing tree planting within the borough. 

“It will be no surprise to anyone that I’m a fan of trees and hedges and it’s reassuring that another load [of trees] are coming this year.”

She praised the work in Kerr’s Park in Holywood and said the borough ‘in general looks richer in trees’. 

The Holywood and Clandeboye representative added she was ‘really pleased with the work that has been done not only by the council but also members of the community who have volunteered to help those tree planting endeavours’.

Referring to the report’s section on ‘mitigating safety risks and better data collection’ and asked what the council will do ‘with the environmental data you’ll collect on the carbon impact’. 

Mr Daye said every single tree in the borough was ‘mapped’ to facilitate examination of any issues the trees might be subject to. 

He said trees sometimes have to be felled but that ‘the community don’t really like it’ when that occurred, but that was done ‘with a heavy heart’ but only done to ‘protect life and property’. 

In those instances, he told councillors, often parts of the trees were retained and complemented by the application of arts projects, or were left in situ, providing insects with food ‘for years’. 

“That really does increase biodiversity as well,” he said.

Turning to the objective of the strategy, ‘to increase the canopy of the borough’, he said it will ‘have major climate implications for the area as well’.

He added that the Treeconomics software will help give detailed information on species composition and pest and disease resilience. 

“The Tree Asset Valuation report is locally specific; it will show the real benefits of these natural assets to the local communities in which they are planted,” a council statement elaborated further. 

“Having an evidence-based understanding of our trees can help the council to make informed and strategic management decisions.

“A Tree Asset Valuation provides a robust evaluation of our tree stock, including ‘an estimation of their ecosystem services, including carbon storage, carbon sequestration, pollution removal, avoided run-off, and information on pest and disease resilience,” added the statement.

Alliance councillor Rachel Ashe commended the update, stating she was very happy more children are ‘growing up realising the importance of trees in our ecosystem’.

Alderman Robert Adair also welcomed the report and praised Mr Daye as a ‘breath of fresh air to this council’.

Independent councillor Wesley Irvine turned to trees felled in Ward Park due to severe weather and said one had fallen near a main road flanking the park. 

Mr Daye said assessments of that particular tree following the storm had shown had not been in a poor condition, but conceded ‘flukes’ like this can sometimes happen.

He said the council’s ‘highly trained’ officers regularly checked local trees, but that ’there will always be occasions that trees can come down’.