On May 23, the first meeting of the cycle of environmental discussions of interest to both activists and the public was held on the Your City platform in Lviv by the International Renaissance Foundation’s EPAIU Environmental Initiative.
The discussion focused on crown reduction of trees as well as how and why to take care of the city trees so that this process does not harm them. Every year, city utility workers crown trees, which causes a wave of disputes and discussions among citizens, urban planners, environment experts and activists. Some believe that the practice of crowning is outdated and should be left in the past along with the whitewashing of trunks. Others see this measure as tree care that is necessary for their rejuvenation and preservation.
Is crown reduction of trees necessary? If so, how to do it correctly without harming the trees? How much does it cost the city? Does this solve the problem? Is crown reduction that leaves nothing but stumps instead of trees, that is seen in cities every year, appropriate and healthy for green spaces? And if we consider this question from the perspective of the environmental services for green spaces of the city, which crowning method allows trees to keep freely providing their ecological services? This was discussed at the event.
Olena Kozak, Expert at Green Wave NGO, Halyna Mykitchak, Acting Head of the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Lviv City Council, Mykola Riabyka, Environment Expert, Executive Director of Plato NGO, and Volodymyr Huley, Expert in Monitoring of the Condition of Gardens and Parks and Street Landscaping of the Administrative and Technical Agency of the Department of Urban Planning of the Lviv City Council, joined the discussion.
Watch the full recording of the discussion on the event page:
The discussion was moderated by Oksana Dashchakivska, Manager at the International Renaissance Foundation.
The discussion was centred around the fact that tree care is carried out in accordance with the 2006 Regulations for the Maintenance of Green Spaces. These Regulations need to be updated because crown reduction has many factors that lead to increased vulnerability of trees and, in the worst case, their death.
The importance of making changes to the legislation in accordance with the EY regulations was emphasised, and the need to conduct an advocacy campaign among the population regarding the correctness of tree pruning was discussed. The experts shared their experience of how these processes take place in cities such as Lviv and Kryvyi Rih. As it turned out, you cannot study to become an arborist — a professional in tree care — in Ukraine. To date, educational institutions can only offer basic education as horticulture specialists.
Among the key factors contributing to the changes in Lviv was the change in outreach efforts. According to Halyna Mykitchak, an active dialogue between the community, the authorities and businesses should be continuously supported. Having seen positive changes in other countries during their trips, residents send inquiries and feedback to city leadership and their building co-owners associations. Residents’ inquiries are accumulating faster than legislative requirements, tasking the executive bodies with always responding to the needs of the community.
Lviv-based Green Wave offers new methods of assessing the ecosystem services provided by trees in the city. I-Tree Есо, an application available in Ukraine, can determine how much oxygen a tree emits, how much carbon dioxide it absorbs, how much pollutants it traps, how much rainwater it retains and the electricity consumption of nearby buildings it reduces.
The application provides not only an assessment in physical units, but also a monetary equivalent for each ecosystem service. It helps communities in inventorying and assessing the importance of trees in the city. Signs have already been installed in the pilot communities reminding residents what services each tree provides and what their monetary value is, which helps to increase awareness and understanding of the value of trees for the comfort and well-being of citizens.
Meanwhile, Mykola Riabyka noted Barcelona’s Superblocks Project. As part of it, streets are being closed to traffic and many trees are planted. This project has already yielded positive results, increasing the life expectancy of city residents. In Ukraine, there is still little research on this topic, but it is important to take into account the potential of trees to improve the quality of life of the community.
The Kyiv City Council recently approved new Tree Care Regulations, which had been considered since 2021. These Regulations take into account scientific recommendations, and academia, arborists, utility workers and the public were involved in the development process.
The new Regulations contain adequate and detailed guidelines, including diagrams for formative and sanitary pruning of trees. An important change is the abandonment of rejuvenating pruning, which allows for preserving the natural shape of the trees.
The policy-making process involved extensive input from experts and the public, which promotes proper care of the city’s green spaces and is an important step in preserving the longevity of trees.
Experts and activists stress that environmental education from an early age is a top priority. We must explain to children the benefits of trees, their role in our lives and ways of symbiotic coexistence with them.
Research has shown that trees communicate with each other and have neural connections similar to mushrooms. They need to be provided with space and quality services within the city limits, as there is enough space for trees outside urban areas.
It is important to understand that trees are the solution rather than the problem, especially in the context of climate change. Policymakers should develop strategies in collaboration with scientists and experts, as decisions about trees require proper justification.
The issue of trees in cities is not just about trees but about creating a comfortable environment for people. Adequate care, education and respect for green spaces help ensure the well-being and health of the population, improving the quality of life in the urban environment.
Photo by Your City
The discussion was held with the support of Sweden as part of the Initiative for the International Renaissance Foundation’s Environmental Policy and Advocacy Initiative for Ukraine (EPAIU). The Initiative aims to develop environmental NGOs.