Have you ever wondered whether your town is leafier than your neighbours’? We all know that urban trees bring lots of benefits to our towns and cities, improving air quality, making us healthier and our towns prettier, but until now information hasn’t been available to see how your town has fared for trees. Well now you can find out. And better yet this information is a great conversation starter for encouraging your local council to increase tree planting across the city.
What has been recorded?
Recent data from a study by Forest Research has measured the tree canopy cover of 283 towns and cities across England. When viewed from above, tree canopy cover is ‘the layer of leaves, branches, and tree stems that cover the ground’ (Treeconomics, 2017). This is a good measure as the area of canopy cover can be linked to the benefits provided by the trees. You can find the results and see how your town or city did at www.urbantreecover.org.
Based on the results of this survey, the average urban tree canopy cover in England is 16%. However, it varies massively depending on where you live; from 3% in Fleetwood, Lancashire, to 45% in Farnham, Surrey.
In a newly released leaflet by the Urban Forestry and Woodland Advisory Committee Network, supported by partners including the Woodland Trust, you can find advice and suggestions on how to use this data to encourage your council to increase tree canopy cover. Take a look at www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/treecanopy.
What can we do with this information?
One of the suggestions is to raise the findings with your local councillor or tree officer. Consider asking if they are aware of the existing percentage of tree canopy cover and if there is already a tree canopy cover target in place.
A recommended target for towns and cities is to achieve 20% tree canopy cover (15% in coastal towns) in an agreed, achievable timescale. Currently less than a quarter of our towns and cities meet this target, so there is plenty more work to be done to increase urban tree cover. Even in towns that already have a canopy cover of more than 20% there should still be ambitions to increase this and keep monitoring to ensure tree cover doesn’t reduce.
Celebrate your trees
These results come at a fantastic time as we are about to open our 2018 round of the street trees project next month. As part of this project we encourage people to celebrate the trees on their streets and show the council that they are worth protecting. If you’re interested in more advice on how to celebrate your street trees, get your neighbours involved, or influence your council, then you can fill out an expression of interest here and be one of the first people to receive this year’s street tree celebration starter kits.
It’s great to see information on urban tree cover being made available for so many towns and cities across England. With more than 77% of these urban areas having less than 20% tree canopy cover it is really important that councils are setting ambitious yet achievable targets to improve this figure. Anyone can get involved by speaking to their council and showing that urban trees matter; take a look at forestry.gov.uk/fr/treecanopy for ideas.