Rostock, Germany; Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation
Andrea Křivánková, časopis Veronica – 8. 8. 2022
A Resilient City for a Pleasant Life
In Central Europe, we are experiencing manifestations of climate change, such as prolonged drought, less snowfall, torrential rain as well as increased temperatures and heat waves, almost daily. Such weather events cause damage to property and endanger human health and lives. Therefore, it is necessary to respond to these changes.
We often hear about carbon neutrality, reduction of emissions, strikes for coal phase-out, because the use of coal contributes to the release of CO2 into the atmosphere and its warming. Yes, we must try to prevent climate change. But because the momentum of these changes might reach decades, if not centuries into the future, we need to prepare for them and adapt so that life in our cities is at least bearable.
The temperature in cities is up to several degrees higher than in the surrounding countryside. Scientists call this effect the Urban Heat Island (UHI). It is caused by a large concentration of buildings, people and cars, as well as the amount of tarmac and concrete areas, lack of greenery and water. In such a space, climatic extremes, such as heat waves, are much more pronounced than anywhere else.
LIFE Tree Check… So that the city does not burn…
Up to 100 people die every year in the Czech Republic due to the heat waves. We can't change the weather. But we can change what our cities look like. They can undergo a transformation that will make them a pleasant place to live all year round. The LIFE Tree Check project, coordinated by the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation, is here to help with such a transformation of cities. How? By strengthening the so-called green infrastructure - greenery in all its forms and possible locations.
LIFE Tree Check, Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation (Veronika Kovářová)
There are a number of problems connected to the built-up areas - from heat accumulation due to the materials used and extreme winds and droughts associated with increased dustiness, to floods caused by excessive use of paved surfaces. As much as 55% of the rainwater water in the built-up city is not absorbed into the ground and is often drained into congested sewers. In the open countryside, only 10% flows off the surface and, conversely, most of the water soaks into the soil. Tarmac can heat up to 70° C on a hot summer day. Have you ever noticed the fluttering of air above its surface as if you were in the desert?
All of this can be managed by green and blue infrastructure. This means green roofs and facades, trees and lawns in the streets, larger and smaller parks forming a net, fountains or rivers in the city, which are accessible for our four-legged pets to have a swim (and maybe we can join them). It is simply any greenery and water element. The water has the magical property of cooling its surroundings in summer. It cools the air by direct evaporation of water and evaporation through plants.
But it is not just water that cools. Shadow is also very important. Why is the shade of trees better than, for example, the shade of a tarp? Remember what it feels like to stand in the summer under a hot plastic roof of a public transport stop. The temperature in such places is up to ten degrees higher than under a tree, where you can sit with a book and enjoy it for hours.
Rostock square, Germany; Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation (Andrea Křivánková)
However, planting trees in the city is not enough on its own. Due to the increased run-off of water on the surface, soil compaction or the protection zones of the utility networks, the trees in the city do not have good living conditions. They lack the water they need to live and the space for their roots to grow in order to provide shade and cool. Therefore, many other measures need to be implemented, such as lowered kerbs so that water can drain into the lawns where it can be absorbed, permeable paving in car parks and rainwater storage tanks for irrigation.
However, it is not easy to choose which measures will be most effective for each city and to know how to proceed. LIFE Tree Check experts advise cities on how to put their adaptation strategy into practice, what adaptation measures for climate change are the most useful and most financially favourable and where to use them. It teaches municipalities how to simplify investment in adaptation measures. This should become part of every investment plan. In such a case, the chosen solutions are often cheaper than the implementation of a separate project.
An international project
The effects of climate change vary slightly across Europe. We cannot compare the Czech Republic with Spain, for example. LIFE Tree Check therefore focuses on the needs of Central Europe.
A consortium of 7 partners from 4 European countries – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary – are participating in the project. They help the network of 8 pilot cities to reduce the negative impacts of the heat island by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of planning and decision-making processes related to the use of green infrastructure and by the design and implementation of specific management steps.
Large cities are participating - Prague (CZ), Brno (CZ), Ostrava (CZ), Plzeň (CZ), Košice (SK), Prešov (SK), Wałbrzych (PL) and Budapest (HU).
Catch trees just like you catch Pokémon
However, the project does not end with a consultation. There is an application called Tree Check that is being developed for the general public to use which recognizes the species of the tree from a photo taken by a mobile phone, determines how much water the tree evaporates and how effectively it cools its surroundings. Everyone is able to create their own tree collection and gain rewards by visiting the trees (rewards include, among other things, access to interesting texts about trees). The Tree Check app is available at Google Play and App Store.
Tree Check App; Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation (Veronika Kovářová)
Smart street planning
Tree Check Pro software help municipalities decide where greenery will help the most, as it is able to model the impact of planned investments on the city's microclimate. The website planner is especially useful for designers, architects, urban planners, managers of green spaces and municipal contractors.
Tree Check Pro is available at www.treecheck.eu
Adapterra Awards competition and inspirational database
Inspiration inspires, that is solid fact. Therefore, the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation also organized a competition for the best adaptation measures for climate change within the LIFE Tree Check project. Thanks to the competition, a database of good examples of practice
has been created, where both DIYers and professionals can find inspiration. There is information about green buildings, as well as landscaping of public spaces and measures in the open countryside. The database is available at www.lifetreecheck.eu/Database
The original article was published in the magazine Veronica, XXXV. volume 2021 l issue 1 l www.veronica.cz
LIFE Tree Check Adapterra Awards