Giving Urban Trees Some TLC

How one city is joining together to take care of its trees.

Dec 21, 2021
Giving Urban Trees Some TLC | How one city is joining together to take care of its trees.

Trees are more than just beautiful greenery. They help clean the air, cool down summer heat, and provide habitats for birds and animals. Trees do much to improve the quality of life of city dwellers and that’s why the residents of Germany’s capital are giving their urban trees some TLC.

Berlin is one of the greenest cities in Europe. In fact one third of the city is comprised of parks and green spaces and there are over 430,000 street trees, according to Next City. Most of Berlin’s trees were planted after World War II in a massive replanting effort that did much to raise the morale of the city. In fact, tree saplings were flown into the city along with food and fuel during the Berlin airlift.

But now, these trees are endangered due to droughts caused by climate change. “If you live in Berlin you might have noticed that the last two years were really dry. We suffered through a drought,” Julia Zimmermann, the manager of CityLAB Berlin – an experimental lab for the city of the future – told Goethe. That’s why the organization set out to find a solution.

Introducing Gieß den Kiez
The idea to create a platform, Gieß den Kiez, that would gather data about the city’s trees came naturally to the folks at the lab after they realized that the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland had already mapped out information about 500,000 trees on their website including watering routes, reported Goethe.

The CityLAB team decided to develop a platform that combined this data along with information about how much water each tree species needed. They then developed the Gieß den Kiez app using open software from Open Street Maps and open data from government reports.

Now, Gieß den Kiez offers people a map of over 627,000 trees, shows them how much water is needed including a tool that shows how much rainwater each tree received in the previous 30 days. People can update it every time the tree is watered and can commit to watering specific trees on a regular basis. As of the summer of 2021,  1,000 volunteer caregivers have registered to give TLC to over 7,000 trees.

The volunteers have helped to improve the platform by providing valuable user feedback. People wanted to use city water pumps instead of hauling water long distances from their homes.

 "We had never even thought about the pumps because, at the first sight, they didn’t seem so important to us,” Zimmerman said. Now the app has been updated with that information.

Tree Stewardship in Other Cities
Other cities have also been working on similar platforms according to Next City. In New York City, the NYC Tree Map that is run by the parks department shows data on 692,892 trees and includes a log of volunteer information that includes watering, and mulching.

The map was built from the data that was gathered by volunteers in 2015 and gives valuable information about how to care for the trees. “The map is intended to be the one-stop-shop for New Yorkers to learn about and care for their street trees,” Dan Kastanis from NYC Parks told Next City.

Additional cities in the US that have tree maps are San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington DC but none are as extensive as the ones in NYC or Berlin.

Taking care of urban trees is a great way to build community connections by bridging the need for sustenance to the needs of people who water them. Like the Lorax, it’s time to speak for the trees and make them your own.

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Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.