Street trees in Bangalore: Density, diversity, composition and distribution.
Once renowned as India’s “garden city”, the fast growing southern Indian city of Bangalore is rapidly losing tree cover in public spaces including on roads. This study aims to study the distribution of street trees in Bangalore, to assess differences in tree density, size and species composition across roads of different widths, and to investigate changes in planting practices over time. A spatially stratified approach was used for sampling with 152 transects of 200 m length distributed across wide roads (with a width of 24 m or greater), medium sized roads (12–24 m) and narrow roads (less than 12 m). We find the density of street trees in Bangalore to be lower than many other Asian cities. Species diversity is high, with the most dominant species accounting for less than 10% of the overall population. Narrow roads, usually in congested residential neighborhoods, have fewer trees, smaller sized tree species, and a lower species diversity compared to wide roads. Since wide roads are being felled of trees across the city for road widening, this implies that Bangalore’s street tree population is being selectively denuded of its largest trees. Older trees have a more diverse distribution with several large sized species, while young trees come from a less diverse species set, largely dominated by small statured species with narrow canopies, which have a lower capacity to absorb atmospheric pollutants, mitigate urban heat island effects, stabilize soil, prevent ground water runoff, and sequester carbon. This has serious implications for the city’s environmental and ecological health. These results highlight the need to protect large street trees on wide roads from tree felling, and to select an appropriate and diverse mix of large and small sized tree species for new planting.