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Arborists and arguments in the urban forest: a synthesis

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 18:48 authored by James KirkpatrickJames Kirkpatrick, Aidan DavisonAidan Davison
The framing of urban trees has shifted from adornment or obstruction to a key asset in the delivery of ecological, economic and social services. This transition has been interwoven with the rise of the profession of arboriculture from the ashbed of tree lopping and naive nativism. Arborists are working to improve the sustainability of Australian cities by integrating the management of grey (built) and green {living) infrastructure in a context in which space for trees is in a severe decline and different segments of the population vary in their attitudes towards them. On-ground tree managers and residents are more emotionally engaged with trees than planners. While the general public barely notices the existence of publically employed arboricultural professionals, the professionals have strong opinions about public attitudes and behaviours related to trees, in particular believing that the public over-estimates risk. There are four types of potential conflict within and between the public, the arborists and the planners: between those who see trees as cost-effective machines for achieving urban goals and those in love with them; between those who have ideological attachments to different types of trees; between those scared of trees and those sanguine about their risk; and, between adjacent land owners. Our interviews with tree professionals suggest that the first type of conflict could be avoided by appropriate selection and management of trees, the second mitigated by consultative planning processes, the third by education of the public and the fourth by arboricultural advice and legal means. Most tree professionals felt that there was considerable room for improvement in tree management in cities, but they disagreed strongly on the effectiveness of different options for tree conservation. The relative effectiveness of the wide variety of mechanisms used to maintain and enhance tree coverage in Australian cities needs to be determined.


Australian Research Council


Publication title

TREENET Proceedings of the 18th National Street Tree Symposium 2017


G Williams






School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences

Event title

18th National Street Tree Symposium 2017

Event Venue

Adelaide, South Australia

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


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Expanding knowledge in human society

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