Impacts of intensive urbanization on trees in Hong Kong

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Trees in cities face a severe limitation of plantable space and an exceptionally stressful growing environment. In Hong Kong, shortage of developable land has relegated trees to a lower priority and intensified urban impacts on them, relative to other cities. The vicissitudes of urban growth and trees since the founding of Hong Kong are reviewed, and eleven specific conflicts between urbanization and trees in Hong Kong are described. Redevelopment of existing buildings has raised site coverage by impervious surface and taken away ground-level planting space within and around affected lots. Infilling of relatively low-density areas mainly for government and institutional land-uses has increased development density and removed existing greenery and planting spaces. Road construction and improvement has widely damaged roadside trees and removed valuable and conspicuous greenery. Proliferation of underground utilities has fuelled the contest for usable space and precluded planting in many places. Widespread and frequent roadside trenching, associated with utilities and the laying of cable television and telecommunication networks has incurred massive root damage at roadsides. Poor soil quality commonly beset by chemical and physical constraints has caused chronic poor tree performance. Intrusion into urban parks and other green enclaves by buildings and roads has usurped the limited stock of green spaces. Encroachment into peri-urban woodlands has deprived the city of fringing mature greenery with conservation, landscape and amenity worth. Plantable space in reclaimed lands has been intensively used with inadequate allocation for trees. Protection and preservation of champion specimens has lacked statutory means and a coordinated policy. Reinforcement and demolition of stone walls has destroyed many large trees on unique mural habitats. Quality of arboricultural practice is poor, particularly in the private sector. Possible solutions to these limitations in Hong Kong are suggested, and have implications for other cities facing similar problems. Copyright © 1998 Foundation for Environmental Conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-159
JournalEnvironmental Conservation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1998


Jim, C. Y. (1998). Impacts of intensive urbanization on trees in Hong Kong. Environmental Conservation, 25(2), 146-159. doi: 10.1017/S0376892998000198


  • Urban trees
  • Urban forestry
  • Urban ecology
  • Tree management
  • Tree preservation


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