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Using tree canopy cover data to secure the benefits of the urban forest.

To secure the benefits of the urban forest, it is helpful to take an evidence based approach to management. Measuring tree canopy cover can be a proxy for these benefits. Local authorities, planners, urban designers and community members can use this tree canopy cover data to set a local minimum standard for tree canopy cover and to explore how tree canopy cover varies across their town. Such approaches are best set locally and the approaches to management can be expressed well in a Tree and Woodland Strategy. This leaflet highlights how the data can be used to track and achieve these objectives.

This leaflet:

  • promotes the benefits of the urban forest
  • highlights and links to tree canopy cover data available to help professionals and community members who are managing, designing and care about their urban spaces
  • shows how the data can be used to secure the benefits of the urban forest
  • suggests that if a minimum standard is set locally for tree canopy cover, that there is evidence that 20% tree canopy cover (or 15% for coastal areas) is an appropriate level
  • highlights the importance of Tree and Woodland Strategies based on this data to set out management approaches.

This resource is based on data produced from i-Tree Canopy and i-Tree Eco projects. It demonstrates how these tools can practically help set an evidence based approach to management of tree locally, bringing research funding into action.


Urban trees provide many benefits to all who live and work in urban areas, providing contact with nature, a backdrop for recreation and wellbeing, cooling and improving the air quality.

The average tree canopy cover figure is 16% in England, measured from over 283 towns and cities. Tree canopy cover is ‘the layer of leaves, branches, and tree stems that cover the ground’ (Treeconomics, 2017). Tree canopy cover varies massively, though, depending on where you live: from 3% in Fleetwood, Lancashire, to 45% in Farnham, Surrey. It also varies within the place you live.

Funders and Project Partners

  • The Urban Network of the Forestry and Woodland Advisory Committee
  • Forestry Commission England
  • Forest Research
  • The Woodland Trust
  • Trees for Cities
  • The Tree Council
  • Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG)
  • England’s Community Forests
  • Community Forest Trust
  • Treeconomics

Further information


Kieron Doick or

Jane Hull
Policy and Advice Team,
Forest Services,
Forestry Commission England

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