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The role of urban trees and greenspaces in urban climate regulation

Home research Urban trees and greenspace in a changing climate The role of urban trees and greenspaces in urban climate regulation

Summary

This programme aims to study how urban trees and greenspaces can help regulate air temperatures in cities.

In 2011-2014, air temperatures around Kensington Gardens, were measured finding a cooling of up to 4°C when compared to control transects along two radial streets. This experiment was subsequently expanded to investigate the role of greenspace size on the amount of cooling provided and eight additional greenspaces with differing characteristics across London were investigated.  

Forest Research has also published two papers giving a series of scenarios that illustrate how a tree can cool the environment, and an investigation focusing on the evaporative cooling provided by three urban forests and modelling the air-conditioning energy savings associated with that cooling.

A Forestry Commission Research Note on the cooling benefits of urban trees and greenspaces was subsequently published in 2019. The Research Note summarises the groups work in this field, reviews the latest science and highlights knowledge gaps. This programme is continuing this research and is currently considering the effects of street trees on local air temperatures and thermal comfort of residents.

Status

This research started in April 2011 and is currently ongoing.

Research objectives

  • Investigate the local cooling effects of urban trees and greenspaces
  • Examine how greenspace size and characteristics influence the amount and pattern of cooling

Latest updates

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Our latest publication on urban climate regulation is Trees, greenspace and urban cooling.

This Forest Research In Brief report summarises work reported by Vaz Monteiro et al. (2019).

Urban cooling from trees and greenspaces is expected to become more important in future decades in our changing climate. 

Tree species, site, and size and position of greenspaces all impact the cooling that trees and greenspaces can provide. These factors must be taken into account in urban planning to maximise the benefits provided.

 

Publications

Vaz Monteiro, M. and Doick, K. J. (2021). Trees, greenspace and urban cooling. Forest Research In Brief 002.

Vaz Monteiro, M., Handley, P., Morison J.I.L., Doick, K.J. (2019).  The role of urban trees and greenspaces in reducing urban air temperatures. Forestry Commission Research Note. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

Moss, J.L., Doick, K.J., Smith, S.T., Shahrestani, M. (2019). Influence of evaporative cooling by urban forests on cooling demand in cities. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 37, 65-73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2018.07.023.

Smithers, R.J., Doick, K.J., Burton, A., Sibille, R., Steinbach, D., Harris, R., Groves, L., Blicharska, M. (2018). Comparing the relative abilities of tree species to cool the urban environment. Urban Ecosystems. 21, 851-862. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-018-0761-y.

Vaz Monteiro, M., Doick, K.J., Handley, P., Peace, A. (2016).The impact of greenspace size on the extent of local nocturnal air temperature cooling in London. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 16, 160-169. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2016.02.008.

Doick, K. J., Peace, A. and Hutchings, T. R. (2014). The role of one large greenspace in mitigating London’s nocturnal urban heat island. Science of the Total Environment, 493, p.662–671. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.06.048.

Doick, K.J., Hutchings, T.R. (2013). Air temperature regulation by urban trees and green infrastructure.  Forestry Commission Research Note. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

Contact

Kieron Doick

Forestry Commission policy

Climate change represents a significant threat to urban infrastructure, environmental quality and the health of city dwellers. Green infrastructure is itself at risk through greater extremes in temperature fluctuation, consequent flourishing of tree pests and diseases, drought and perceived increased risk of subsidence leading to tree removal.

There is no clear system for determining the biophysical interactions, benefits, or managing potential trade-offs within a risk-benefit context, so as to optimally support the protection and sustainable regeneration of UK towns and cities. The Urban Trees and Greenspace in a Changing Climate Programme intends to develop such a system through consolidating and building upon existing work to provide the evidence base for urban trees, definition and communication of best practice guidance, and robust assessment, evaluation and dissemination tools so that the risks and benefits of urban tree placement can be more fully assessed by society, policy makers and planners.

The Programme also maintains the centre of excellence which FR has developed over several decades on land regeneration practices to establish and maintain urban greenspaces on former brownfield and contaminated sites.

Research Status
current
Research Groups
Urban forests
Funding & partners
  • forestry commission 1Forestry Commission

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Urban trees and greenspace in a changing climate

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Status current