4 reasons to plant a tree in Greater Sydney and beyond - National Tree Day Blog

4 reasons to plant a tree in Greater Sydney and beyond

Urban greening has clear environmental, social and economic benefits. From improving our health and wellbeing, to dealing with the impacts of climate change, to making our cities more liveable, trees and green spaces have a critical role in the environment. By planting one in your garden, balcony or courtyard it will create a network that increases opportunities for wildlife, helps your community stay cool and improves your mental health.

1. Plant to combat climate change

Healthy urban trees absorb carbon dioxide and air pollutants from the atmosphere while providing oxygen for us to breathe. Australia has warmed 1.44°C and rising and suburbs in Western Sydney have felt the worst of this. On January 4 2020, Penrith was one of the hottest places on Earth at 48.9°C. This could offer insight into what life in suburban Sydney could look like as climate change progresses. In August, planning controls banned dark roofing in Sydney’s south-western growth area and specified room for trees in backyards. 

2. Plant one for wildlife

In Western Sydney alone there are over 100 threatened species. One of these species is the gang-gang cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum), the males can easily be distinguished by their striking red mohawk. They are found throughout south-eastern Australia and can often be found in suburban gardens and nearby bushland reserves. The gang-gangs were heavily affected by the 2019-20 bushfires and in the last 21 years their population has dropped by 69 per cent. They are now listed as vulnerable in New South Wales and are set to be nationally listed as endangered next year. Gang-gangs forage on seeds of native and introduced trees and shrubs. They also rely on tree hollows to breed and nest in with their life-long partner. The cockatoos share the parental load and will sometimes form a ‘babysitting club’ where several pairs have nested close together, their young roost together in the same tree while their parents forage.

A list of helpful trees for our feathered friends:

  • She-oaks attract seed and fruit eating birds, including the glossy black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami).

  • Banksias are an important source of food for birds such as the painted honeyeater (Grantiella picta) and insects, as well as providing nest sites.

  • Bottlebrushes are pollinated by native stingless bees (Tetragonula carbonaria) and attract nectar-loving birds like rosellas.

  • Cypress Pines attract birds such as the Scarlet Robin (Petrocia boodang), butterflies and other insects.

  • Hakeas are great for nesting birds, including the Bird of the Year winner — the superb fairy wren (Malrus cyaneus).

  • Eucalyptus provide a wide range of food and living places for many animals, including many cockatoos.

3. Plant for your mental health

There is plenty of evidence that proves time in nature reduces stress while improving happiness, wellbeing and productivity. A recent study in Japan explored the importance of nature around the home and the key role it plays in mitigating against adverse mental health outcomes due to the pandemic. The study found the experiences of nature from within the home were associated with increased levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction and decreased levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness. Planet Ark’s 2019 research revealed more than two-thirds of Australians agree that living in a neighbourhood with lots of trees, gardens and parks would reduce their stress levels. 

4. Plant one to cool your community

Trees are natural cooling mechanisms which help mitigate the Urban Heat Island effect. Research from the 2019 Living Cities report shows Sydney has one of the lowest tree canopy coverages (15 per cent) when compared to other capital cities in Australia such as the most tree-filled capital city Hobart at an impressive 59 per cent. The research also shows a 5 per cent increase in tree cover can reduce nearby daytime temperatures by 2.3°C, which could be crucial as heatwaves cost more lives than all other climate change impacts combined. 

Trees play a pivotal role in nurturing the environmental and mental health of cities and their residents. Plant one for wildlife, plant one for community cooling, plant one for the future. If everyone plants one, together we can create a greener, cooler and more liveable city.

Join the Everyone Plant One campaign to help make Sydney greener and more habitable. Make your tree count by registering it here: https://www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/premiers-priorities/greening-our-city/register-your-tree.

The Everyone Plant One campaign is part of the NSW Government’s Greening our City priority which aims to increase tree canopy and green cover across Greater Sydney by planting 1 million trees by the end of 2022.

Jennifer McMillan

Jen worked as a vet nurse while studying environmental science and completing her master's degree in Journalism. She loves bushwalking, storytelling, caring for baby animals, Australian birds and river red gums. Jen works on the National Tree Day and National Recycling Week campaigns.