In December 2020, we started a citizen science project with the members of Zero Carbon Harrogate, to carry out a canopy survey of the Harrogate District. Urban trees and greenspace are increasingly recognised for the environmental benefits they provide to people and the local environment. We call these benefits ecosystem services and they include things like regulating local air quality, providing food, providing habitats for wildlife, amenity values, regulating the climate, as well as much more. Canopy cover is the area of land covered by trees when viewed from above, as a percentage of the total area (%). To help us understand the delivery of these important ecosystem services, we can map canopy cover. This enables us to estimate the distribution of trees across a given area and then we can start to see which areas are likely to benefit most, or least, from the ecosystem services associated with trees.
Forest Research, with their partners Brillianto and Trees For Cities, developed a fantastic online platform to facilitate their UK Urban Canopy Cover citizen science project. The aim of the project is to assess canopy cover for urban areas across the UK, in order to build a detailed picture of current cover and to inform future management of trees and planting. The project uses aerial imagery and sampling points to monitor trees in i-Tree Canopy, which can be processed and uploaded to the Forest Research project map.
The UK Committee on Climate Change recommending tree planting of at least 30,000 hectares every year between now and 2050 to contribute to the UK’s efforts to achieve net-zero. Tree planting on this scale is estimated to deliver an increase of UK canopy cover from 13 to 17-19% by the year 2050. Harrogate Borough Council has committed to a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target of the year 2038. To achieve these targets, in addition to planting trees, it is paramount to preserve existing canopy cover. This project aims to understand the existing canopy cover across Harrogate district.
The team at UBoC and Zero Carbon Harrogate (ZCH) saw the opportunity to contribute to the Forest Research project, carrying out the full survey for Harrogate, including rural areas too. It provides an opportunity to help build local awareness of canopy cover, and the services those trees deliver in the district. The UBoC team delivered a couple of workshops to train ZCH volunteers how to use both i-Tree canopy to collect the tree data and the Forest Research citizen science platform to upload and map their data. With lots of willing volunteers, training from Anna and Hazel from UBoC, and the help of Kate at Forest Research, we soon started to build a picture of the canopy cover of the wards across Harrogate district (rural and urban).
Thanks to our eager volunteers, we’ve now completed the project. We’ve found that the wards of Harrogate have an average canopy cover of 10.8% with the greatest canopy cover in the ward of Knaresborough Castle (34.7%) and lowest canopy cover in the ward of Pateley Bridge and Nidderdale moors (4.1%). It’s brilliant to get a picture of where the trees are, and where we might like to plant more.
If you missed this opportunity, or would like more opportunities to help out, keep your eyes peeled on the ZCH website. If you’d like to complete more canopy surveys, check out the Forest Research map for incomplete areas. You can follow UBoC on Twitter @UBoC_rainforest to see what we’re up to.