A group conducting a tree survey of the South Parish area in Cork are hoping to pave the way for others to carry out similar research in their localities.
Green Spaces for Health, a group based in the South Parish who are calling for more urban green spaces, are carrying out the survey in conjunction with the Community-Academic Research Links (CARL) initiative from UCC.
Dr Eoin Lettice is one of the researchers involved. "The CARL initiative is about conducting research with the community. We can help with some elements of the investigations as we have the skills, but the research question is always formed by the community and for their benefit.
"Green Spaces for Health, led by Maria Young, have been active for years now and are involved in biodiversity and green spaces in the South Parish."
The tree survey will examine how many trees are in the area, their species, their locations and their benefits.
"Conducting a survey like this is important because we can quantify the trees. We can see what locations we need to plant more trees, what species are doing well and whether we need to plant more street trees," Dr Lettice tells The Echo.
So far, the survey has found that most trees in the South Parish area are 'institutional trees'.
"There are some streets trees and some in people's gardens, but the vast majority of them are in institutions like convents, cathedrals, churches and graveyards."
The majority of these trees are non-native, but Dr Lettice says these trees can be just as valuable.
However, because the majority of the trees exist on private lands, they need to be examined. "Whose land are they planted on, and how will they be maintained and protected is important to discuss," says Dr Lettice.
The group also intend to ask the locals what their perception of the trees are.
"We will ask are they a benefit, are they a nuisance, is it annoying to clean up the leaves? Then we will be able to quantify how people living in urban spaces value trees.
"Trees give many positives. There's environmental benefits and health benefits, both physical and mental. Trees are aesthetically pleasing."
The trees also provide what Dr Lettice calls 'ecosystem services' which should be measured. "They can reduce flooding, provide shade, and reduce air pollution by sequestering carbon dioxide."
The UCC researcher hopes that this model of tree surveying will be followed by other groups around Cork, if it is successful.
"We want to simplify the process. People should be able to map trees, measure their diameter and height, and gather information on resident's perceptions easily.
"Open access is key. We want to allow other areas to be able to conduct their own tree surveys. Community groups, tidy towns and schools should all be able to conduct this research for little to no cost."
Dr Lettice also called for local groups to stand up for their trees. "Having this data means they are able to go to decision-makers and councillors and quantify why they need more trees, and why they need to be protected."