For the love of Trees

November 18, 2015 10:22 am

Valletta trees - before and after

In 2010, the excessive pruning of the trees in Valletta’s Great Siege Square caused great controversy1. This is the main site in the Maltese islands for wintering White Wagtails, having provided shelter for thousands of birds for over 40 years.

Actions such as this may have lasting impacts on the birds’ chances for survival as they may struggle to find alternative roost sites and it can take years for the trees to recover. In the meantime, the bare trees are unsightly and provide people with little shelter from Malta’s blistering summer heat.

BirdLife Malta has since worked with the Valletta Local council who have thankfully revised their practices towards a gentler method of tree management.

Following Valletta’s example, we want to work towards improving tree management nationwide. By recording sparrow roosts, Spot a Sparrow is producing a map of Malta’s big, leafy trees of particular importance to wildlife. This data will then be used to guide local councils in suitable tree management.



Here are some of the reasons we value Malta’s trees and want you to help us protect them.

  • Beauty – In the above example of over-pruning, visitors to Valletta commented at being ‘distraught at the ugliness and the bareness of the city without the greenery of the trees’2. Trees can add colour and break up the harsh shapes of urban environments.
  • Temperature control – Dense tree canopies provide us with shade and protection from the wind.
  • Human Health – Even in cities, the impact of trees on cleaning our air cannot be underestimated and has been linked with reduced mortality3. In fact, studies have shown endless benefits of spending time around trees for both our mental and physical health. These range from improved mood to faster recovery from surgery4!
  • Social and cultural benefits – The social spaces that trees create through their beauty, protection from adverse weather, and blocking of sound pollution help to bring people together. Increased greenery in urban Urban trees in Rabat - Photo by Jennifer Lawareas has even been linked to reduced crime5. Trees can have cultural and historical importance too, and can provide inspiration for art.
  • Economic benefits – We’ve already looked at the temperature-controlling capacity of trees but this can actually save us money on heating and cooling expenses. On top of this, trees add value to locations. Properties with more trees tend to sell at a higher price, and consumers may linger and spend more at businesses with trees6.

So report a roost today and help protect your local trees!



  1. Times of Malta – ‘Mepa probes Valletta trees pruning’
  2. Times of Malta – ‘Important Valletta bird roost damaged by pruning’
  3. USDA Forest service – ‘Modeled PM2.5 removal by trees in ten US cities and associated health effects’
  4. Psych Central – ‘Going Green Benefits Physical, Mental Health’
  5. Research Paper – ‘Does vegetation encourage or suppress urban crime? Evidence from Philadelphia, PA’
  6. EarthShare – ‘Top 10 Benefits of Trees’