A tree census is among several initiatives that the City of Cape Town is engaged in to celebrate and preserve trees and make the city more sustainable.

The City of Cape Town is planning a count of all trees in the city.

The City of Cape Town is planning a count of all trees in the city. Credit: Creative Commons

Trees are in the spotlight this September as the country celebrates Arbor Month. The yellowwood family has been designated Tree of the Year by the National Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Considering the celebrations, the City of Cape Town’s Recreation and Parks Department is branching out its tree management plans and is planning a count of all trees in the city.

The census will help determine whether Cape Town can be classed as an ‘urban forest’, which is an urban area with a tree cover of more than 10%. It will also allow for a tree inventory detailing the location and condition of trees and help determine how many trees need to be planted to help offset the city’s carbon emissions.

“We have had to revisit our approach to Arbor Month, specifically because of the drought and the realisation that we live in a water scarce region. So the days of large-scale planting are over. Now, it’s a case of planting smartly and taking better care of our existing trees,” highlights the City’s mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services, Alderman JP Smith.

“Other threats to our trees include ongoing development, a lack of understanding in some quarters about the benefits of trees, and of course illegal harvesting of trees and bark. In a country with many challenges, talking about trees might seem frivolous but the reality is that how we treat our environment today will have a massive impact on the generations of tomorrow,” says Alderman Smith.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. Apart from their aesthetic appeal, trees provide shade in summer and shelter from the elements during winter and add an estimated 5 to 15% value to any suburb or property.

“We’ve moved from Arbor Day to Arbor Week to Arbor Month; this is a signal of just how important this issue is and should be to each and every one of us. The City calls on Capetonians to help preserve this precious resource and to support tree planting while remaining mindful of our limited water resources,” concludes Alderman Smith.