Growing the expertise to grow our urban forest

By 2050, Melbourne aims to have the most extensive urban forest in the world. A school at the University of Melbourne is helping to build the expertise so this plan can become a reality.

In our increasingly urbanised environment, urban forests and green spaces play a vital role in climate resilience.

The City of Melbourne has released an ambitious plan to grow its urban forest to become the largest in the world by the year 2050.

Urban forester Kelly Hertzog at the City of Melbourne, says preserving and expanding urban forests is crucial in a context of population growth and climate change.

“Forests are essential infrastructure for the city – reducing pollution to cleaning our air and cooling our city. They're also an important part of the city's identity, culturally,” she says.

Last year, the City partnered with a research leader in the field, the University of Melbourne, to establish a school dedicated to building professional expertise in the area.

The Australian School of Urban Forestry (ASUF), running again in 2019, aims to bring professionals from various disciplines together to build a ‘community of practice’ that will assist in the planning and management of future urban forests.

Associate Professor Stephen Livesley from the University of Melbourne says the school addresses timely questions.

“The trees in our cities help to cool our urban landscapes and if we don't have them, the city is going to be hotter, it's going to be harsher, and it's going to be a real problem under climate change,” he says.

"There has never been a more critical time to come together and share professional and academic knowledge across urban forestry experts within government, industry, and community."

Running across five days in December, the school facilitates learning across disciplines and perspectives and presents expert speakers, including Diane Pataki, Utah State University; Maree Grenfell, Resilient Melbourne; Susan Day, University of British Columbia; and Meg Caffin, Urban Forest Consulting.

Associate Professor Livesley says unlike a conference or workshop, the school facilitates deep engagement, learning and relationship-building opportunities.

"The urban forest is a complex and dynamic system, supported by many decision-makers, stakeholders and communities that sometimes have opposing views," he says.

“We’re hoping to see many members of Australia's urban forest community coming together in this school. Coming together to share their experiences, to talk with and learn from the leaders in forest management and strategy – but also to learn from one another.”

Find out more on the Australian School of Urban Forestry at the University of Melbourne’s Burnley Campus running 1-6 December 2019.