The results of a new study have found that urban, less affluent hotspots actually have a higher temperature of over 10 degrees Celsius when compared to greener, more affluent suburbs.
According to an RMIT University study detailed in the Where Should All the Trees Go report, the amount of lost vegetation in Australian metropolitan areas amount to the size of Brisbane over the last three years, creating a real risk to heat waves.
The report, which was produced in collaboration with CSIRO Data 61 and the University of Western Australia, analysed the levels of greenery across metropolitan areas and what 138 local government areas were doing to be as green as possible.
Marco Amati, associate professor from the RMIT Centre for Urban Research and lead author of the report, said that local governments could be doing better to keep green.
“Governments keep track of the green cover in cities as this has implications for adaptability in extreme weather events, biodiversity, and is linked to the community’s overall wellbeing,” Mr Amati said.
“Using i-Tree — a method for sampling urban vegetation distributions and land covers — we found there has been a major decline in canopy coverage. As they lose vegetation, urban areas start to act like heat sponges.
“Our study showed areas identified as less affluent are at risk of having urban hotspots that are more than 10 degrees higher than those found in wealthier areas.”
In order to determine the correlation between socioeconomic and health status, lack of green covering and temperature increase, Mr Amati said that the team created a vulnerability to heat, poor health, economic disadvantage and access index.
“Using this index, we found that green spaces and heat concentration in Australia are spread unevenly, which is contributing to an uneven spread of economic and health circumstances,” Mr Amati said.
Explaining the loss of greenery, co-author Dr Bryan Boruff from the University of Western Australia said that the cause was due to how neighbourhoods are changing.
“Local governments showing the greatest green space losses across Perth lie in a band that stretches from inland Melville to coastal East Fremantle where the traditional Aussie backyard is losing ground to densification and infill,” Dr Boruff said.
“While it is known that the Australian backyard is disappearing, much more research is required to understand the factors influencing this unanticipated trend to help get our urban greening back on track.”