FoE Malta recommends holistic policy for trees

Submission of Friends of the Earth Malta in response to Public Consultation – Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations & Guidelines on Works involving Trees   

FoE Malta has recently submitted its recommendations as part of the public consultation exercise for the Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations put forward by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA). Whilst welcoming any legislation that protects trees, FoE Malta believes that the legislation falls short in communicating the benefits and importance of the protection and safeguarding of trees and woodlands to our natural ecosystems, in terms of biodiversity and providing a home for other flora and fauna, and in our urban areas, in terms of benefiting people’s physical and mental well-being.

FoE Malta is recommending the creation of a holistic policy and legislative framework that puts these benefits upfront and has as its core aim to increase and promote trees and woodlands on our islands, not merely to minimise damage inflicted on trees and woodlands.

Malta’s urban area generally does not meet EU air and noise pollution regulation standards, and physical activity figures of the population are extremely low. As a result of these and other factors combined, we have the highest incidence of obesity in the EU, and alarming rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases, especially among children. The importance of adequate urban design, including the promotion of trees and greenery in urban areas, should not be overlooked: there is plenty of empirical evidence for the contribution of trees and greenery in cities to alleviating negative health effects due to air and noise pollution, and in bringing about positive physical and mental health benefits associated with access to green urban spaces.

FoE Malta is also proposing the inclusion of a mechanism to grant historic or landmark trees monument status, and as such schedule them as part of the national natural patrimony.

While FoE Malta welcomes the protection of many tree species endemic to the Mediterranean region and/or compatible with our ecosystems, we do not believe eradicating all alien species will necessarily be the best approach to conserving our natural areas and ecosystems. The Ficus tree provides several beneficial functions in our city and village squares, and along promenades and roadways, such as providing shade, air filtering, noise abatement and providing a home for many urban birds. Eucalyptus trees support bees and other pollinators, as they flower during a time when nearly no other local flora flowers, and as such are essential in supporting bees and pollinators throughout the year. We would like to see the role of this tree species in the context of the local ecosystem, and in particular in relation to apiculture, better reflected in the legislation, as eradication of this species will severely impact the local bee population.

In conclusion, we believe that in light of climate change, loss of natural habitats and access to nature, and for our own well-being and quality of life, increasing the number of trees and woodlands on the Maltese islands is of the utmost importance. We hope that a strong and holistic policy and legislative framework on the protection of trees and woodlands can aid in achieving this aim.

A copy of the document can be downloaded from here