City chiefs trumpeting the benefits of trees have overseen a massive plunge in the numbers planted in Dublin over the past five years.
Dublin City Council’s recently published “vision” for trees in the capital credits them with everything from cutting cancer rates to boosting house prices.
But figures newly released to the Press Association reveal a sharp decline in the numbers being planted in the city every year since at least 2010.
A spokesman for the council said this was partly because they have run out of space to plant new trees.
Official records show 2,493 trees were planted in the Dublin City Council area in the 2010 to 2011 planting season.
This dropped to 2,120 the following year, then to 1,835. The numbers rose slightly to 1,959 the next year, before dipping again to 1,690 last year.
The number of trees planted this year has plummeted yet again to 1,450.
The council’s Draft Tree Strategy – described as its vision for trees in the capital – claims “approximately 3,000 trees are planted each year in our parks, open spaces and streets”.
Figures for the planting of “whips” – very small trees, usually hawthorn used for hedging – has plunged even more dramatically.
Some 5,700 were planted in the 2013-2014 season, compared with just 1,000 this year.
Only 150 were planted last year.
Dublin City Council said it does not keep figures for the number of street and park trees that are felled every year.
However, it has recently bought “a new computerised tree management system” which will be able to give these figures in future.
The Draft Tree Strategy says urban greenery cleans the air, provides natural flood defences, masks noise and promotes a general sense of wellbeing.
“Within the more high-density areas of the city, trees have considerable beneficial impacts on the lives of those who do not have immediate access to other more traditional types of open space,” it says.
“Trees, for example, can add colour, interest and beauty to our busy streets.”
It goes on to highlight scientific research on the role of trees in prolonging life, improving mental health and even increasing the birth weight of babies.
They also tackle climate change and can add tens of thousands of euro to the price of an average home.
A recent University College Dublin study showed a massive disparity in street trees between more affluent parts of the city and less well-off areas.
There is one tree for every eight residents in Ballsbridge.
But in parts of the north inner city, there is just one tree for every 200 residents, according to the research.
A Dublin City Council spokesman claimed there was not enough “appropriate” space for tree-planting in recent years.
“The reduction in the number of trees being planted annually in recent years in the city is due in part to the reducing availability of appropriate urban space to do so,” he said.
“The city council’s vision, as detailed in the Draft Tree Strategy, is for the effective and sustainable management of the current and future tree stock to enhance the environment for residents, and for those working and visiting the city.
“It involves a mix of measures including tree planting, felling and surgery as appropriate.”