City Trees

September/October 2019

City Trees is a premier publication focused on urban + community forestry. In each issue, you’ll learn how to best manage the trees in your community and more!

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Page 15 of 39

Graveyards and cemeteries may seem odd places to cele- brate the living world, but their value as urban green spaces is now well recognised, especially with the growth of the sustainability agenda, concerns about biodiversity loss, and awareness of the impact of greenery on human health and well-being. As David Goode (2014; 84) notes: "Ask any urban wildlife trust for a list of its best nature areas and it will prob- ably include one or two cemeteries." Central to most of these spaces is their habitat form—"urban savannas"—a mosaic of open grassland and scattered parkland trees (Photo 1). I've made extensive use of cemeteries and graveyards as spaces of learning in the UK, both as part of the formal university curriculum and for community engagement. Cemeteries and graveyards provide inspirational settings in which to engage students in the wider sustainability debate. Discussions range from historic population growth and urbanisation to the role of these sites as a "particular kind of landfill" (Fielder, et al., 2012; 90), with attendant environ- mental impacts (use of space; burial of metal, wood, and concrete; and toxic materials, including embalming fluid), as well as provision of beneficial ecosystem services. This article highlights several themes: burial sites as formal arboreta; cemeteries as the location of veteran trees with immense biodiversity value; and lastly, cemeteries as sites of plant invasion. A Matter of Life and Death: Trees in City Cemeteries and Graveyards Story and photos by Peter Vujakovic, Professor of Geography, School of Human and Life Sciences, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK Photo 1. Canterbury Road Cemetery in Ashford, Kent (UK) as urban savanna. Photo 2. English of St. Martin's, continuous 16 CityTREES

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