Here’s a little quiz: If you had to hazard a guess – just a very rough estimate – how many trees would you say are growing in our capital city, by which I mean the Dublin City Council area? And in terms of that same tree cover, how do you think Dublin compares to other European cities such as Lisbon, Helsinki or Copenhagen?
Finally, for a wheelbarrow load of extra bonus points, could you name three of Dublin’s most common non-native street tree species as well as three ways that the city’s arboreal population plays a significant role in mitigating climate change, urbanisation and pollution?
A man who knows the answers to all the above is Gerald Mills, an urban climate scientist and associate professor at University College Dublin’s school of geography, with a particular passion for trees.
Twelve years ago, Mills began the process of “mapping” Dublin’s tree population, starting with street trees growing within a sample area within the Royal Canal and the Grand Canal. Working alongside his then-colleague Tine Ningal, he visited and recorded more than 2,700 trees within this zone over the course of three years, to measure their species, maturity, height and canopy size, in order to assess their ability to capture and sequester carbon, filter air and noise pollution, combat urban flooding and provide shelter.
Intrigued by the data he gathered, Mills (working again as part of a small group) has since mapped all of Dublin’s trees, or what he calls the city’s “urban forest”, a herculean task commissioned by the Office of Public Works and supported by Dublin’s four local authorities.
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