In a world moving towards sustainability, improving urban tree cover can provide numerous benefits both environmental and social. Tree canopy in an urban environment will reduce summer peak temperatures, increase efficiency of heating and cooling buildings, improve water quality and curtail erosion. Additionally, lush urban tree cover increases aesthetic appeal and value; all of these factors combined could be very attractive for businesses and residents.
The Urban Tree Canopy Assessment (UTC) led by the USDA Northern Research Station aims to gather data to aid stakeholders and decision makers understand their current amount of cover and extrapolate the potential future amount. Assessment protocols have been developed by the agencies and implemented in towns, cities and counties across North America. Data from these assessments have been analyzed and compiled to inform and develop future UTC goals, identify and prioritize locations for tree planting, establish and execute community forestry action plans, understand environmental implications and justify funding and budget increases for forestry programs.
UTC assessments provide resource managers with information vital to their mission and help them to prioritize and set goals as well as develop and implement plans. Analysis of data may manifest as newly formed questions such as: Where in the community are trees most highly valued? Is it possible to plant more trees in socially desirable areas? Is it fiscally responsible and efficient to plant more trees? What does the potential tree canopy look like?
Tree canopy is vitally important to the city of New York, that being so, the NYC Urban Field Station has developed a set of protocols and tools to aid in prioritization using a spectrum of urban ecological and social information which guides tree planting efforts. This tool set has proven so relevant and useful that it now accompanies all UTC assessments. To learn more about how these tools were developed and the status of and plans for NYC’s urban canopy visit: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/37293. In 2010, NYC acquired and began using LiDAR to assess the state of the canopy cover. These data continue to improve the ability of forest managers to track the health and needs of the trees for which they are responsible by providing detailed, historical and current canopy measurements. For more information on LiDAR and how it is used to assist with forest canopy management, check out the workshop put together by New York City Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability organized a workshop in August 2010.