As the ambient temperature of our planet continues to rise alarmingly, environmentalists and scientists are always researching about various methods and solutions that can help bring about some relief in the ever rising global heat. Various movements and petitions around the world, in the recent years, have been conceptualized with the simple aim of conservation and restoration of trees and plants around the world. Global warming has been one of the biggest threats to our world and thanks to the ignorant attitude of the human race; the increase in the average temperature has never been more alarming.
In urban areas, trees play a very important role at various levels. How important trees are to our ecosystem can be understood simply by understanding what they do at the micro-climatic level. One of the most important functions performed by a cluster of trees is bringing down the ambient temperature of the area. Trees perform this function by evaporative cooling. In addition to that, they also create functional recreational spaces for people and also reduce the risk of city floods.
Even though the importance of trees for the urban ecosystem has been realized a long time ago, till now researchers did not have a conclusive method for the quantification of how actually trees help in regulating the climate of urban areas. The role of trees has been assessed in the temperate climatic conditions of North America, Europe etc. The contribution in tropical zones is less well investigated. Researchers have some catching-up to do and are yet to make an assessment about the tropical zones. Urban sustainability stands on the foundation of green ecosystems especially in the cities like Bangkok or New Delhi where the climate is tropical and the population increasing annually.
Google Street View Provides Data for Plenty Urban Regions in the World
To map the ecosystem, researchers in the Singapore-ETH Centre’s Future Cities Laboratory came up with the novel idea of using Google Street View. Applying a special algorithm, nearly 100,000 hemispherical pictures were obtained from the free GIS service Google Street View and analyzed to assess the greenery dense areas at 50 metered intervals across more than 80 percent of Singapore’s road infrastructure. The scientists used the specific images for a particular location by orientating with the help of numerous streetscapes and panorama photographs that are available with Google street view which uses Global Positioning System (GPS). Owing to the superior spatial resolution of the images, the scientists could make an estimate of the total solar radiation that was reaching the earth’s surface. The Future Cities Laboratory found out that more than 70 percent of the shading effect in Singapore is caused by trees.
These dense clusters of trees serve various purposes than just bringing down the temperatures. They decrease the risk of flooding by holding the soil at the roots. Additionally, they purify the polluted air to a very large extent. As the research was carried further, it was concluded that the expansion of the green canopy would definitively bring about radical decrease in the surface temperatures of the ground and the air.
Decision-makers can make use of this system by identifying low shaded areas and street sections with a small tree density. It could be easier to set priorities for plantings.
The importance of the role of trees cannot be exaggerated enough and they become even more important in the tropical environments. Mapping of the ecosystem using Google could facilitate the environmentalists to plan the tree plantation in relevance to the urban requirement. Google Street View provides data for plenty urban regions in the world. Thus, it is possible right now to investigate the canopy coverage and solar radiation for many other cities.
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