Why the appearance of Aussie suburbs is set to rapidly change

Weather changes are being felt globally, and Australian town planners are having to investigate what plants will survive the future.

The appearance of Aussie suburbs will rapidly change as weather patterns force councils to overhaul their design.

Species that have traditionally shaded us simply won’t survive the impacts of predicted higher temperatures, and their replacement species will change how our streets look.

It’s a situation that’s already been experienced in Los Angeles, where the city’s iconic palm trees are being replaced with new species that provide more shelter and tolerate the heat.

Two images of jacarandas. Left - two women squatting on the ground below jacarandas. Right - two women taking a selfie in front of a jacaranda street.
While much-loved species like jacarandas (pictured) will thrive, other native trees will suffer the impact of climate change. Source: Getty (File)

Now across Australia, many councils are being forced to consider what species to plant because we can’t simply replicate what flourished before if we want the trees to survive into the future.

It's worth noting the impact of climate change won't always be negative. Favourites like the jacaranda that was introduced into Australia from Brazil will likely flourish, although in Perth warmer winters could stop it flowering.

Tree that’s set to disappear from fast-growing suburb

Environment group Greening Australia has been examining threats to tree species in Australia’s fastest-growing local government area, Camden. It has planted thousands of native trees in the area, but it has concerns about the survival of one of its endemic species.

The critically endangered Camden White Gum evolved to exist where the maximum temperature is between 25 and 30 degrees. The tree survives in the wild along the Nepean River’s banks, but its future looks bleak.

That’s because days over 40 degrees are expected to climb from 1.1 days a year to 7 in less than 50 years. Days above 35 degrees will jump from 11 to 37 over the same time period.

Rainfall will likely be 10 per cent more intense, leading to regular flooding along the Nepean River. And winter and spring will have 5 per cent less rain, while autumn will have between 5 and 10 per cent more.

Trees cover no more than 20 per cent of the suburb. Because of housing demand, developers bulldozed more than 6 per cent of its canopy between 2009 and 2016.

An aerial view of Camden's black roofed houses.
Camden (pictured) is Australia's fastest-growing local government area, but it has little tree cover. Source: Getty (File)

Inland suburbs will be most severely impacted by hotter weather

Camden isn't the only suburb that's facing change. Climate change will be severe in areas away from the coast that don’t benefit from sea breezes or year-round moisture.

This concern was highlighted on Monday when town planner Samuel Austin warned western Sydney will be the hottest place on Earth in just six months time — due largely to location, poor housing design and a lack of tree cover.

Because trees are essential to keeping us cool, councils are working to understand how to replant trees that will survive changes in weather.

Poorer suburbs are the most vulnerable

Each local government area in Australia will experience different changes in weather. Greening Australia’s urban expert Michael Vyse explained to Yahoo how his team are working to conserve and restore landscapes across the country.

“We’re thinking about which species will survive in the future if we put them in the ground now,” Mr Vyse said.

“Most places are going to get dryer… as an example, Canberra could possibly have a climate like Dubbo in 20 years time. So do we select the species that are there now, or do we choose those that are better adapted to what the future climate scenario is?”

Across Australia, poorer suburbs are located in regions more vulnerable to weather extremes, and those less fortunate are less able to escape it by simply moving away or going on holiday. So Greening Australia is working to protect those most at risk — kids and the elderly.

“If we spend a dollar in a leafy suburb we get a dollar back in terms of social return, but if you spend it in a hotter, less canopy-covered suburb you get twice as much back,” he said.

“When we look at those sites we think about how people might use them,” he said. Footpaths and lawns that may have been no use on hot days, are being transformed into green refuges.

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