Survey urges raising Cambridge's tree canopy cover in face of climate change

A study commissioned by Cambridge City Council has urged the planting of 15,000 trees over five years, to "aid adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change such as an enhanced urban heat island effect, increased harmful radiation, poorer air quality and more flooding".

Image: David Short
Image: David Short

In 2012, consultancy ADAS was commissioned by the council to survey the city's trees in order to assess current canopy cover, determine cost-effective tree planting strategies in areas of low canopy cover and identify areas of unprotected trees forming large canopies.

An existing aerial digital tree map was analysed to quantify the density and canopy cover of trees within areas of different land uses, wards and ownership categories, while a ground survey of 24 random four-hectare plots confirmed the aerial survey findings.

Compared to a national survey undertaken in 2008, tree densities in Cambridge were found to be lower than estimates for other British cities, while canopy densities were higher, indicating that Cambridge has a more mature stock of fewer trees compared to other English towns and cities.

It was calculated that 3,000 trees a year over five years would need to be planted in the city in order to increase canopy cover from 17 to 19 per cent within 30 years. The survey also identified areas in Cambridge in need of additional canopy cover, as well as tree protection and maintenance hotspots.

"The increase in existing canopy cover can be optimised and tree mortality reduced by adopting, enforcing and promoting current best practice, codes of practice and statutory controls in the care, maintenance and protection of trees, in addition to the design and creation of tree-friendly places," it concluded.

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