What is Urban Tree Canopy?

Urban tree canopy is a measurement which encompasses the layer of leaves, branches and stems of trees that shelter the ground when viewed from above. This measurement is expressed as a percentage of ground area that is covered by tree crowns, and relates to the branching spread of the trees in an urban forest. Some urban tree canopy covers natural areas or gardens and lawns, while other canopy spreads across impervious surfaces such as roads, buildings and parking lots.

A densely forested area with trees that have interlacing branches and no space between them may have a tree canopy percentage of nearly 100. On the other hand, a prairie area with mostly grasses and very few trees may have an urban tree canopy of less than 5%. Edmond’s environment falls in between, with a characteristic Cross Timbers forest comprised of both forested stands and open meadow in the midst of the built environment.
Tree preservation, tree planting (with appropriate selection and placement), and improving tree health through proper tree care practices can all contribute to a sustained or enhanced urban tree canopy. In contrast, tree removal, site clearing during development, natural incidents such as fire and storms, and poor tree condition can contribute to a reduced amount of tree canopy. It is important to note that tree species planted will influence the speed of urban tree canopy increase, due to varied growth rates, mature sizes, and life spans.

In 2012, Edmond Urban Forestry released the “Edmond Urban Tree Canopy Report”, which revealed the results from a canopy assessment performed on Edmond City Limits and broke the City down into 7 different land uses: Undeveloped, Residential, Open Space, Institutional, Commercial, Transportation, and Industrial. This assessment found that Edmond’s overall tree canopy percentage was 35.9. The highest amount of tree canopy for a land use was found in Residential areas at 46.2%, while Undeveloped areas were a close second at 46.1%. Commercial areas have a tree canopy of 17.7%.

Urban Forestry is in the process of updating the urban tree canopy assessment, in conjunction with the Edmond Urban Forestry Commission’s efforts to assist with establishing a tree canopy goal, per the direction of City Council’s Strategic Plan.

In next season’s newsletter we will get into "Why Tree Canopy is Important". For more information about the 2012 tree canopy assessment, view the full report.

View more topics from the Winter 2017 edition of Edmond Tree Mail