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Provision of Shade and Shelter

Relates to vegetation that ameliorates extremes in weather and climate at a local landscape scale. Shade or shelter is important for plants, animals and structures.



Provisioning Functions


How does the provision of shade and shelter contribute to ecosystem service provision?


Animals rely on shade and shelter for breeding, sleeping and refuge.

Shade limits algal growth in water systems and maintains temperatures for aquatic species to live in.

The dual ecosystem function of shade and shelter is derived primarily from the capacity of structurally complex vegetation such as trees and shrubs to ameliorate extremes in local weather and climatic conditions. Shade and shelter assists with protection from extremes in temperature, sunlight exposure and the impacts of wind. The provision of shade and shelter is also required for the natural regeneration of habitat and the maintenance of water systems at a localised or paddock scale. The interrelationship of tree, shrub, forb and grass species with compatible geology, soil type, slope aspect, elevation, moisture availability and temperature range characteristics are the main ecosystem components supporting this function. The location of homogeneous vegetation communities is strongly correlated to the distribution and position of soil types in the landscape.

Table 1 below presents the relative magnitude shade and shelter contributes to different ecosystem services (relative to other ecosystem functions) in SEQ. The provision of shade and shelter provided by vegetation contributes to maintaining our climate as natural shade is generally much cooler than built infrastructure, as plants do not store heat but instead contribute to further cooling through the evaporation and transpiration from their leaves. Amelioration of temperature occurs through vegetation cover intercepting the sun’s rays, which is either deflected into the atmosphere or used as energy for photosynthesis. Access to shade and shelter provides animals and humans with a more habitable climate due to greater protection from more extreme periods of high or low temperature or high winds.

Improvements in food production occur due to the ability of shaded and sheltered areas to protect livestock from the elements and to provide wind breaks which reduce evaporation in cropping lands caused by high winds. Shaded and sheltered areas provide greater food sources for animals and other biota. Water quality is influenced through the interplay of plant and soil microbial relationships, the interception of raindrops by plant leaves as well as soil cover through the maintenance of pasture grasses, shrubs and forbs and the recycling of leaf litter and other organic material into the soil humic fraction. Vegetation communities, particularly the presence of significant sub-story and ground-cover species improve water quality by holding soil together, reducing erosion and nutrient runoff and filtering water as it passes through the surface and ground water systems. Vegetation also provides a buffer against extreme events. As described above, during periods of hot weather, vegetation is capable of significantly lowering air temperatures, through the shade they create when intercepting incoming solar radiation. The cooling service provided by natural shade and shelter has been found to reduce the consumption of energy for air-conditioning by 10 to 50%.

The aesthetic value of vegetation providing shade and shelter is wide reaching and can be experienced and enjoyed by the whole community. Shade and shelter from vegetation can provide privacy, screen out or enhance views, provide 'white noise', reduce glare and reflection, create softness and beauty in landscapes as well as enhancing and complementing architecture and the built environment. Sheltered and shaded areas offer many possibilities for human recreational activities such as bush walking, picnicing, relaxing, enjoying wooded landscapes and watching wildlife. ‘No waste’ recycling services occurs in shaded and sheltered areas due the increased levels of biota in the more humid and protected climate, providing healthy ecosystems and landscapes that contribute to opportunities for recreation and for people to experience therapeutic landscapes. Many people gain therapeutic value from looking at pleasing vistas, learning about plants and re-connecting with the environment.



What is the temporal and geographic scale the provision of shade and shelter operates at and services are delivered?

The provision of the shade and shelter ecosystem function to where the benefit is received is omni-directional. Shade and shelter produce services both within close proximity to the stand of vegetation as well as contributing to shade and shelter benefits both regionally and globally.

The map to the right shows areas where the function provision of shade and shelter is expected to occur across SEQ. Data sets supporting the map can be found in the Quick Index. By clicking on the link below the map it will provide a more detailed view.


How do we know if we are degrading, maintaining or improving the provision of shade and shelter in SEQ?


Links to other publications and websites

Vegetation communities can range in the level of shade and shelter function they provide. In SEQ, high shade and shelter function may be expected from more dense vegetation communities such as rainforest, vine scrub and closed forest systems. Significant shade and shelter function are also available from tall open forests, eucalypt open forests and woodlands. Prior to extensive clearing of vegetation communities for cattle and cropping production it is understood that the shade and shelter ecosystem function may have been more abundant than it is today. However, existing remnant vegetation communities, along with areas of regrowth, continue to provide significant levels of shade and shelter function.

This ecosystem function can be understood as being degraded if clearing levels of existing and remnant vegetation are exceeding rates of regrowth and/or if existing stands of vegetation are being compromised by issues such as dieback, overgrowth with weeds or excessive thinning. Indicators of change will be increases in cleared areas as visible through remote sensing (i.e. satellite imagery). Monitoring changes in vegetation cover is a function of the Queensland State Government that is conducted through the S.L.A.T.S. group.


How do we manage this ecosystem function in SEQ?

Depending on the tenure of the land where shade and shelter exists, management of this function is at the discretion of the Landholder. The Department of Natural Resources and Mines is responsible for administering the Vegetation Management Act 1999 which controls the clearing of vegetation on freehold and leasehold land throughout the State.