Let's talk trees

18 April 2024 2 minute read

aerial view of a residential area in Nottingham, England, interspersed with urban trees.
Tree-filled residential streets in Nottingham, England

Let’s talk trees, or specifically - tree canopy cover. Forest Research, supported by Trees for Cities, has conducted a citizen science project using i-Tree Canopy to plot tree cover in every ward. The Urban Canopy Cover map highlights the low level of tree cover in urban areas and the stark inequalities within cities. The evidence is clear that deprived urban areas are still more likely to be devoid of trees.

This is a real problem. Trees provide many benefits to our health and wellbeing, but all too often, the places where most people live have far fewer trees. Over 80% of the population lives in urban areas, but over 70% of these areas have a canopy cover of below 20%, which Forest Research suggests is the minimum target for UK towns. In some places, it's as low as 2%. It’s time to change this!

Tree canopy cover is unevenly distributed geographically and demographically. Most urban TCCs fell short of proposals for a 20% target and are low compared to non-UK targets.

UK Ward Canopy Cover - Forest Research

Let's aim higher

Trees for Cities has spent 30 years engaging communities and authorities to plant and protect trees in areas where they're needed most. We love the 3-30-300 rule by the Nature Based Services Institute that aims for 30% tree canopy cover. In the UK, only a handful of urban areas enjoy this level of tree cover.

We want to see a UK where your postcode doesn’t determine your quality of life, and trees play an important role in that by helping to clean our air, keep our cities cool, and support our mental health and wellbeing. It’s why we’ve planted over 1.7 million of them, with big plans to plant more, focusing on the places that need it most.

Mile End Park 020324 Sol Denker 35 cropped
Volunteers planting new trees in Mile End, London, where surrounding area canopy cover can be as low as 4%

Talking trees

Research like this sparks much-needed conversation and highlights inequalities that are not always obvious. Our CEO, Kate Sheldon, discussed exactly this on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, explaining that not only do we need to increase tree canopy cover, but we need to support communities to protect our existing trees as well. Listen to the full interview here (timestamp 2:50:50).

Trees are not just nice to have! Everybody should have the right to grow and live among trees.

Kate Sheldon on BBC Radio 4

For more information on Tree Equity, check out our story by Carrie Hume, Development & Partnerships Director at Trees for Cities. And to keep the conversation going, sign up to our newsletter Tree Times for monthly updates on all things urban trees.

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