Urban forests get smart

Article image - Urban forests get smart ICT Internationalís Peter Cull with Armidale Regional Councilís Chief Executive Officer Peter Dennis.

A collaborative project is aiming to enhance the management of urban forests by utilising data.

The project is a collaboration between ICT International, Brimbank City Council (Vic), Swinburne University, RMIT University and Armidale Regional Council (NSW).

The project has been shortlisted for potential funding by the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program and will now move into the final stage of funding assessment.

Armidale Regional Council has approved a proposal for a co-contribution of $80,000 towards the $1.55 million project.
Deputy Mayor Councillor Dorothy Robinson said that municipalities around the world are increasingly recognising the value of urban forests.

“They aim to increase vegetation cover in urban areas, improve biodiversity and maximise the benefits of trees in the urban landscape,” said Cr Robinson.

“The proposed project will support the establishment of Smart Urban Forests in Armidale and another region of Australia, and test a strategy that could deliver immense benefits including optimising water management of trees.”

A smart urban forest is one in which individual city trees are instrumented to provide continuous data on transpiration rates and so indicate when a tree needs watering.

The technology will improve water management of trees – potentially improving tree longevity and reducing water costs.

“Using advanced plant water use (sap flow) and plant water stress (psychrometer) technologies developed in Armidale, as well as the science and research capabilities of two world renowned education institutions, to measure trees in the Armidale streetscape plus a metropolitan council area, this project aims to guide the future planning of urban spaces,” Cr Robinson said.

“Beyond the direct environmental and cost benefits, Council believes that this project has significant potential to enhance our region’s reputation as a centre of excellence in the ag-tech industry.”