Trees in one area of the UK will be assessed to benefit the West Midlands’ ambition to boost canopy cover.
In a study commissioned by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), citizen science groups and members of the public, engaged through local urban forest volunteer schemes will inspect and document urban forest characteristics.
International organisation Treeconomics has been appointed by WMCA, in partnership with Birmingham Treepeople, Barton Hyett Associates and Forest Research, to manage the study starting early July.
It will include the assessment of over 1000 sample plots spanning Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry on public and private land, delivering a systematic data pool of the WMCA’s urban forest, which covers a significant geographical area.
The data collected will be used to enhance and inform tree management decisions and ambitions set out in the West Midlands Natural Environment Plan to increase canopy cover in support of region-wide efforts to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies.
It will be processed via the software application, i-Tree Eco an assessment tool which quantifies the structural and environmental effects of urban trees and calculates their value to society.
Jeff Grant, West Midlands forest partnership co-ordinator for the WMCA, says: “Encouraging tree planting is one of the flagship elements of the West Midlands Natural Environment Plan.
“It is an essential element of our ambitious target of increasing canopy cover and will also help us to protect and care for mature trees so we can retain their biodiversity value, and to enhance the landscape and air quality.
“We’re already making good progress with over 320,000 new trees planted since 2020. Knowing what already exists and being able to communicate the benefits and future needs to people who live and work in the West Midlands will allow us to take a longer-term and more strategic approach to planting to help tackle the climate and ecological emergencies.”
The findings will be curated into a report, due to be completed in December 2023, complementing the i-Tree 2022 Black Country survey and will enable local initiatives like tree planting programmes to be coordinated and prioritised according to local requirements, taking into account environmental and social factors, such as air pollution and public welfare.
It will underpin the decisions made by urban forest managers to improve their trees’ resilience and diversity, while addressing potential threats from a changing climate and risks associated with pests and diseases.
The data and subsequent report will help ensure that long-term strategic management is an integral part of urban forest management and will enable benchmarking with similar urban forest initiatives across the world to take place.