Bamboo for urban and peri-urban greening? Of course, but…

Today, I visited one of Bali’s small but beautiful Botanical Gardens and decided to move my eye and camera attention a little bit more up than the ususal straight forward. Doing so was truly amazing, because it allowed me to quickly recognize a beautiful canopy cover formed by various tree and plant species – excluding bamboo.

A little later, I entered an area in which only bamboo was growing. I quickly recognized its beautiful canopy cover, but much more dense.

As I thought about the picture I took of the bamboo canopy, I felt it was too dark as new phone screen background, but it also made me remember how important dense canopy covers are;

  • Forest canopies are hotspots of biological diversity, engines of global biochemical processes, and the dynamic interface between organic nature and the atmosphere.
  • A dense canopy cover will let little light reach the ground and will lower temperatures. The canopy protects the ground from the force of rainfall and makes wind force more moderate -> habitat conditions on the ground are shaped by the degree of canopy cover.

With the monsoon rain starting to hit my face and soaking my clothes on my way back, I wondered about the potential of bamboo on the sides of roads (besides one spot that made me really happy and feel dry!). Would it help me and the many other scooter drives to stay more or less dry? Could it be integrated into urban and peri-urban tropical environments? What benefits would bamboo have? What disadvantages would it have?

Besides the biochemical benefits of general canopy cover listed above, here are a few more benefits of trees in urban settings. These likewise apply to bamboo;

  • Removal of pollutants from the air, soil and water
  • Release of water vapor into the atmosphere which cools the surrounding areas, mitigating the urban heat island effect
  • Interception of rainfall and reduction of storm water runoff (and thus, reducing the costs related to infrastructure required to manage it)
  • Energy savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions due to shade provided
  • Carbon sequestration

Having lived in Jakarta for now 5 months and having visited Lombok and Bali, I would truly argue pro! bamboo (and trees). The picture below provides the main argument.

Pros’ for bamboo:

  1. The truly dense canopy cover
  2. Its related ability to provide shade and protect drivers as well as pedestrians from rain
  3. Its flexibility
  4. The immense ability to store water
  5. Its root system – very strong and beneficial in areas prone to earthquake – not as deep as tree root system ,

Con’s for bamboo:

  1. Its “invasive” root system if not protected well
  2. The need for proper management, i.e. removal of degrading poles
  3. Eventually its strong leaf fall.

Conclusively, I would argue that there are various benefits for bamboo. In terms of urban and peri-urban settings, its main benefit relate to its strong leaf cover and ability to store and absorb water. Likewise, the canopy cover may be less in areas with strong underground construction and decreasing flexilbity for bamboo growth. This applies more or less to areas (i.e. cities) with less space.

References

Gobron, N. (2012). Leaf Area Index. FAO. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/3/i0197e/i0197e15.pdf

Nakamura, A., Kitching, R. L., Cao, M., Creedy, T. J., Fayle, T. M., Freiberg, M., … & Malhi, Y. (2017). Forests and their canopies: achievements and horizons in canopy science. Trends in ecology & evolution32(6), 438-451.

Trimble, S. (2019). Forest and Plant Canopy Analysis. CID Bio-Science. Retrieved from: https://cid-inc.com/blog/forest-plant-canopy-analysis-tools-methods/

Published by Ann

German rooted sustainability supporter and business enthusiast. Expertise in sustainable development , circular economy and South East Asia

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