The Nature Conservancy and Resilient Melbourne have teamed up to map the vegetation of the entire Melbourne metropolitan area in an Australian-first they say will help the city’s fight to stay on top of the liveability charts.

Using new digital mapping technology, the team has just finished mapping the coverage of greenery in Werribee in Melbourne’s west, including vegetation height.

The Nature Conservancy Australia director of conservation Dr James Fitzsimons said the mapping was an essential element in creating a new city-wide Metropolitan Urban Forest Strategy, which is set to be released later this year.

The urban forest strategy will work to unite those strategies already underway by local councils such as City of Melbourne, City of Yarra and Stonnington, as well as efforts by community and private sector efforts. It will also support the state government’s plans to create a metropolitan urban forest, as outlined in Plan Melbourne.

Resilient Melbourne chief resilience officer Toby Kent said there was an increased pressure to include space for trees and vegetation on both public and private land, with the population expected to double by 2050.

“It’s essential that we recognise the benefits that trees and other vegetation provide for people and nature across our metropolitan city,” Mr Kent said.

“Doing so will help us to manage a range of chronic stresses and acute shocks that otherwise threaten the liveability and, in extreme cases, viability of Melbourne.”

Digital Globe and Trimble are, respectively, providing satellite imagery and mapping software for the project.

Dr Fitzsimons said the types of trees planted and their configuration was also an important consideration when developing an urban forest strategy, as it could affect how native fauna, particularly birds, move through suburbs. His previous research found that areas with native vegetation had a significantly higher number of native birds than those with mostly exotic tree species.

“People like native birds in their neighbourhoods, but we’ll need to make smart, proactive decisions on what we plant in our suburbs if we want to see them persist into the future,” he said.

“That’s why the strategy we’re developing will seek to balance the shadiness and aesthetics of certain trees with their wildlife habitat value.”

Melbourne laneways get cool

The City of Melbourne this week revealed part of its plan to increase its green coverage, with four CBD laneways undergoing “green makeovers” as part of the $1.8 million Green Your Laneway pilot program.

Coromandel Place, Guildford Lane, Meyers Place and Katherine Place were upgraded with planter boxes, vertical gardens, climbing plants, trees and street art in an effort to cool the spaces, improve air quality and clean stormwater.

“By harnessing the enthusiasm of local residents and businesses, we’ve converted these laneways from a place for garbage trucks to move through to green community spaces,” City of Melbourne portfolio chair Cathy Oke said.

“Melbourne is famous for its laneways – we have over 200 of them – and this project shows how we can utilise the space to make our city greener, more sustainable and take action to cool the city.”