Climate-Resilient Street Tree Species Study For Malaysia

Summary

Changes in climate and weather patterns will not only impact human life but also urban trees and their habitats. One of the recommended actions to prevent tree death due to climate change is for government and industries to prepare a list of climate-resilient tree species.

The study serves to initiate the conversation on choosing climate-resilient species and is a stepping-stone to further initiatives, including a an Open-collaborative Online Database. Given the diversity of tree species in Malaysia, volatile weather patterns, and shift to digitization, this platform will allow experts to continuously document the impacts of climate change on trees and help us better prepare for the future. The findings will also be developed into a policy report and mainstreamed to City Councils throughout the country.

Expertise: Resilience

Services: Climate Resilience

Flagships: Climate Resilience

Keywords:

Project Premise

Climate change poses severe challenges to cities in Malaysia. In terms of heat stress, climate change in cities will be heightened by the Urban Heat Island effect and the humidity of the equatorial climate. One of the best strategies to reduce urban temperatures and improve microclimate conditions is introducing street trees. However, street trees will also be impacted by the changing climate. Therefore, it is critical to identify the species that are more suited to withstand the coming changes in weather patterns.

 

What We Did

To do so, we established two main goals: identifying tree species that are appropriate/desirable for urban planting in a general context and, from these species, those that will most likely be resilient to the anticipated climate changes in Malaysia. Local expert arborists, horticulturalists and botanists assessed the resilience of different species according to 38 predetermined criteria. A list of tree species that are more resilient to climate impacts was identified for four landscape types: a) urban streets; b) small urban green spaces; c) blue-green corridors; and d) coastal fronts. In the consultations with different experts, it became clear that climate change is already impacting several tree species in the region.

 

Project Outcomes

The primary output from this process is a preliminary list of species and associated relevant information that can assist cities and professionals in selecting tree species. Considering the progressive nature of climate change and the need to document impacts, an online database to record observations from professionals across Malaysia will be developed.

The study is being developed by Think City in partnership with Jabatan Landskap Negara. It is funded by the Climathon Global Cities Award 2020 and sponsored by the City Council of Penang Island (MBPP).