Tree WardensUrban Trees Forest Research map

Annabel Buckland and Kieron Doick of Forest Research invite Tree Wardens to join their mission to create a map of urban tree canopy cover for the UK.

Are you interested in finding out about the extent of tree canopy cover in your local area? Or how tree cover varies across our nation? Join us, to create a map of urban tree canopy cover for the UK!

What is Canopy Cover?

Tree canopy cover is the area of ground directly covered by tree canopy, which includes the leaves and branches. This can vary greatly across urban areas and is often measured as a percentage of land area in order to begin to understand an urban forest*. Many towns and cities across the world, including in the UK, have created canopy cover targets to encourage planting and improved maintenance of the urban forest.

Why assess Canopy Cover?

The canopy of trees provides many benefits, such as making urban areas healthier, more enjoyable and more attractive places to live and visit. Alongside this, trees are important in tackling the climate crisis as they perform the crucial role of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. It is important for us to know where we have, and where we don’t have, this resource.

We already know some information about the canopy cover of the UK, however this is the first attempt to complete a survey of all urban areas at electoral ward scale. Previous surveys have primarily been conducted in less detail – at town or city scale – and have shown canopy covers ranging from 3% to 45%. We now, with your help, have the opportunity to map every ward across the UK. This will provide us with the detailed information necessary to support better future urban forest management and identification of priority areas for tree planting.

How to get involved?

The Canopy Cover webmap, created by Forest Research and partners Trees for Cities and Brillianto, makes it quick to assess your ward in three simple steps, and is entirely desk-based!

Step 1: Visit the Forest Research website to download our detailed user guide – this provides all the information you’ll need.

Step 2: View the ward(s) you are interested in on the web map and download the ‘shape-file’ that you’ll need in Step 3. While you are here, why not search the map to see how much of the country has been assessed and by how much Canopy Cover varies.

Step 3: Get assessing on the i-Tree Canopy web page. It’ll take around one-hour to complete your first ward, but maybe as little as 30 minutes if tree cover is very low. Once you’re completed, don’t forget to email us the results and we’ll upload them to the map for everyone to see.

25% of the UK’s urban wards have now been assessed, which is amazing – but there is still a lot of work to be done!

So please, get involved and map a ward.

Kieron Doick is the head of the Urban Forest Research Group, and Annabel Buckland is an Urban Forest Research Scientist, both based at Forest Research. The group conducts research to understand the current and future composition of UK’s urban forests, as well as their value and their resilience to a changing climate.

*‘Urban Forest’ is defined as all the trees in the urban realm – in public and private spaces, along linear routes and waterways and in amenity areas.