Lodz authorities have announced that ZZM will plant 20,000 trees along several two-lane roads over the next 3-4 years. They are to improve residents' living comfort and air quality, eliminate urban heat islands or dampen road noise. It seems to be the right step in the era of the climate crisis, and other cities could follow Lodz's example, but will the real effects actually be as announced by the local government? Climate and landscape experts we asked for their opinion have reservations about the announced effects.
In early June, the Lodz local government announced the launch of a plan to plant 20,000 trees along several two-lane roads. All in an effort to improve the landscape and mitigate climate change. The new rows are to appear along Pabianicka, Rzgowska, Rokocińska, Włókniarzy and Jana Pawła streets. The trees will be planted in lawn strips, between roadways and on the side of streets. The local government says the planting is expected to begin this fall and will take about 3-4 years in total. This is another area of the city where new trees will appear. Last year, several hundred were planted in the center, after several thousand were cut down in the course of some city investments.
Posters promoting a campaign to plant 20,000 trees along Lodz's two-lane roads
© UM Lodz
fixing mass felling - a response to appeals from experts and activists
The authorities boast of their pro-environmental and pro-social initiative, but, as it turns out, it is, among other things, a response to the long-standing appeals of Lodz climate activist organizations and associations, including: New Lodz, Yes to Lodz and Socially Engaged. Experts and activists have fought for the greening of urban areas after several campaigns of mass tree cutting.
For many years we have appealed to the city authorities to plant trees. We cited all sorts of studies and expert opinions about the positive impact of greenery on the state of the air in summer, the urban landscape, the well-being of residents or, finally, their function of lowering temperatures. Among other things, we referred to the NIK report, according to which an average of 6 square meters of greenery per person has been lost in recent years ," says Dominik Artomski of the New Lodz Association.
For 9 years (2010-2019) as many as 77,000 trees were cut down in Lodz, while only 63,000 were planted. In city investments alone, 11,000 mature trees were cut down, replaced by 6,000, but small ones, he adds.
Lodz authorities are trying to compensate for the damage, but will 20,000 trees of several meters in height really affect the state of the air and - especially important for residents - when will real improvements be felt?
Indeed, the real impact on the cooling of urban areas, and thus leveling the so-called urban heat islands or reducing the likelihood of photochemical smog (summer, traffic smog) are medium-sized trees: 20- and 30-year-old, as well as large trees older than 40 years ," Artomski explains.
In its promotional materials, the smog authority assures of the positive effects of the campaign
© UM Lodz
According to the expert, the trees that the Lodz local government plans to plant will serve such a function in about 10 years at the earliest. The issue of improving the air, even reducing winter smog, which is the most troublesome, also remains uncertain.
For the winter smog, lines of trees along the roadway will not help much. For a simple reason - then the trees have no leaves, and thus particulate matter cannot settle on them and then enter the soil with rain or snow. In winter, trees absorb only a few percent of such pollution ," he says.
Nevertheless, we are glad that the local government has decided to plant trees. However, we would have expected it to go a step further, that is, to choose large trees that not only provide shade, but also better absorb air pollution , Artomski adds.
Local government's financial constraints the culprit
We asked the Lodz City Greenery Board why large trees were not purchased. The main reason turned out to be economic considerations.
We fully share the opinion that 20-, 30-year-old, large trees would have been more effective, but we are limited by financial possibilities, which, as far as local governments are concerned, have been severely eroded by decisions of central authorities , explains Jakub Paduch, spokesman for ZZM Łódź.
Secondly, it should be remembered that the availability of large, aged trees on the market is limited, and our project envisages a number of plantings unprecedented in our country , he adds.
The way in which the trees can be planted also raises doubts among activists and experts. According to Dominik Artomski, in several areas of the city, including the center or Retkinia (W-Z route), the trees were planted "chaotically," making it difficult for them to access light and water.
However, Jakub Paduch assures that this will not be the case this time.
When planting, we will also take into account the technical infrastructure so that there are no collisions with it. On the other hand, the distance between plantings itself will be determined by the habit of the trees , the spokesman explains.
Impact on aesthetics - yes, on noise - not necessarily
There is still the question of the actual impact of the rows on the urban landscape and the well-being of residents. President Hanna Zdanowska argued that the trees will not only improve the health and mood of residents, but also dampen noise from the road.
We asked landscape architecture specialist Prof. Alexander Bőhm about the specific impact of trees on urban space, including aesthetics and acoustics. In his opinion, the Lodz local government's plan is an example of combining the useful with the pleasant and beautiful, but not all the announced assumptions will work out. Prof. Bőhm, contrary to many prevailing opinions, says that trees of this size will not dampen noise to a significant degree. Nevertheless, he stresses the validity of such initiatives.
These are very important initiatives, especially at a time of climate crisis and massive cutting down of trees in cities. By the way, I completely don't understand why trees are cut down to, for example, widen a road. There are other, greener, ways to do it! - he claims.
Anyway, planting trees along roads has a long and beautiful tradition in Poland. As early as the end of the eighteenth century, the Four-Year Sejm passed resolutions on the sanitation of cities. Among other things, they stipulated their "beautification" by planting trees along main streets and exit roads. Thanks to the rows of trees, moving along and along the roadway, regardless of the means of transportation, becomes more comfortable and more pleasant, he added.
The specialist also pointed out that the question of the species of trees that will make up the rows and the distance at which they will be planted is not insignificant. The denser, the better. In his opinion, the species that will be planted in Lodz will do well. So it remains to wait for the results.