Trees in urban areas provide many benefits, they help us to cool the local climates, reduce flows of storm water, clean the air and store carbon. They also provide a habitat for wildlife and places for people to take exercise, connect with nature and socialise. However, compared to forests in more rural areas, we have very little information about them.
The Urban Forests and Woodlands Advisory Committee’s Network (UFWACN) ‘Vision for resilient urban forests’ (March 2016) challenges all those who contribute to and manage the urban forest to know the scale and value of their urban forest and have a target to increase canopy cover.
Now in their latest document, ‘Introducing England’s Urban Forests’, (written by scientists at Forest Research), the UFWACN highlights their clear definition of the ‘urban forest’ and explains which tools and datasets can measure its distribution and composition. It sets out how urban forests benefit society and summarises knowledge on their structure and extent of distribution across England.
The UFWACN go on to encourage all those with an influence in urban tree management to meet these challenges through a combination of public and private sector initiative, partnerships and citizen science. In particular they highlight the continued uptake of ‘ i-Tree Eco’, a software application used to quantify the structure and environmental effects of urban trees and calculate their value to society.
Currently there is no inventory of England’s urban tree resource and the last comprehensive analysis of the structure of England’s urban forests, produced in 2008, now requires updating. Producing detailed datasets for individual towns and cities is important as it provides critical information to enable them to be effectively managed. It is also essential for setting baselines from which to develop and monitor goals for urban forests, such as expanding the benefits they provide.