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DOI

https://doi.org/10.7275/0x5r-e822

Publication Date

2019

Abstract

The protection of urban image and cityscape has become the target of professional attention in Hungary since the introduction of Urban Image Handbooks and urban image regulations. Trees are a major part of local image in Hungary. Using GIS methods we established that built-in areas are usually surrounded by sparsely wooded areas and groves, which are taller than the vast majority of buildings. Therefore, trees play a dominant role in shaping urban character. Effects of trees on urban living conditions, livability and the ecosystem services they provide, have been intensively researched in recent years. However, the role of individual trees in determining local image has been out of the focus of research. Although trees located on public property have been inventoried in past decades, information about their aesthetic properties and image value is scarce. In addition, there is an almost complete lack of knowledge regarding trees standing on private land, even though a large proportion of these are also visible from public areas, therefore having an impact on urban image. Tree protection regulations also fail to adequately address the topic. Identifying the individual trees with the most profound effect on the visual image of an urban area is a difficult task – not only due to of the lack of information, but also because there are no established methods for determining the aesthetic and image value of urban trees.

At the Szent István University, Department of Landscape Protection and Reclamation, we attempted to develop a methodology to evaluate the importance of individual trees from the standpoint of urban image and streetscape, with District XXII of Budapest as the study area. Using a three-step method based on the analysis of aerial photographs and fieldwork, we identified the top 1% of all individual trees with the most dominant impact on the surrounding urban landscape – 706 out of an estimated 70.000. We inventoried and analyzed several aspects of these trees and their environment (e.g. soil, condition, health). The results show that there is no direct connection between the urban image value of trees and their ecological, dendrological or nature conservation importance. Our research suggests that trees with the most profound impact on the cityscape are different from those with the highest ecological value. This makes it clear that efficient protection of urban image requires a new approach towards tree evaluation as well.

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