Brisbane has been ranked as the leafiest city in Australia, with Hobart coming close in second place.

In the first research of its kind in Australia, aerial imagery and location intelligence company Nearmap has revealed the results of a National Artificial Intelligence data analysis of tree cover rankings across Australia’s capital cities and residential areas.

Nearmap analysed roughly 5000 suburbs nationwide to reveal that Greater Brisbane has 79 per cent of people living in populated suburbs with more than 20 per cent tree cover, Hobart has 71 per cent of people living in areas with over 20 per cent tree cover, Darwin 66 per cent, the ACT 58 per cent, and Greater Sydney 44 per cent.

“The consistency and national coverage of the data for the first time provides a powerful picture of the density of urban forests, property development and population distribution across the nation today,” said Dr Rob Newman, managing director and chief executive officer of Nearmap. 

The results have important implications for liveability

According to the 2021 Australian Liveability Census, one of the key factors that potential residents look for in an area is green spaces and vegetation.

“Research shows the more greenery a residential area has, the better it is for the physical and mental health of the local community,” said Dr Bryan Boruff of the University of Western Australia.

Trees help reduce heat in urban areas

Residents who live in areas with less tree coverage can suffer the effects of urban heat island, which can increase temperatures by 4-10 degrees Celsius.

Trees can also improve local water quality by stopping pollutants from entering the waterways through stormwater runoff.

Monitoring leaf coverage also helps track recovery from bushfires

Dr Newman said that the data found that “vegetation has regenerated rapidly” from the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires in Buxton NSW.

“Buxton has today almost doubled its tree canopy, from 34 per cent after the bushfires, to 59 per cent tree cover today. This rebound offers us a lot of confidence that we can rapidly improve our environment.” 

A tool for improvement

Dr Newman says that the Nearmap data results are an important tool to show local governments what areas need improvement.

“By revealing the major cities that are successfully creating green spaces – and which ones may need additional focus or investment – we can give local governments and other organisations the information and tools they need to create more resilient and sustainable communities,” Dr Newman said.

Dr Boruff says that while increasing urban vegetation is an achievable goal, it is one that requires stronger government commitment.

“Increasing vegetation in our cities is very doable. While we are seeing some positive changes, such as local governments committing to increases in tree canopy, there is still more that we can do.”

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  1. Interestingly, research in Chicago has even linked tree cover to crime rates. Comparing areas of similar socio-economic status, researchers found lower crime rates in greener suburbs.

    1. Yes but is that chicken or egg?
      Ie people who are inclined to crime may not be able to afford leafy areas to live in. But is that criminal profiling? Of course we exclude white collar crime in this assessment as I’d expect most of the perpetrators do indeed live in leafy suburbs.