The Importance of Urban Tree Canopies

Urban trees play an essential role in making cities livable and countering the effects of climate change.

2 minute read

November 6, 2019, 12:00 PM PST

By Camille Fink


Paris Trees

ClaudineLonget / Flickr

Oliver Balch reports on the role of urban trees in cities around the world. The measures and data sources used to measure canopy cover can vary, which means rankings differ as well. In addition, experts say that absolute measures of tree numbers should not be the sole focus. "Access to trees, not their quantity, is what really matters, [Simone Borelli] argues. Can city-dwellers sense, see or, ideally, touch the trees in their city?"

The factors behind high levels of tree coverage in cities are a combination of geographic location and public policy. In Singapore, for example, planting and maintaining trees and green spaces are policy priorities included in development plans. "There are about 7 million trees in Singapore, approximately 3 million of which are along streets, in parks, residential and industrial estates. And [National Parks Board] has stepped up efforts in recent years by planting more than 50,000 trees a year along roadsides, and in parks and gardens," says Balch.

And while many cities recognize the importance of tree canopies, trees have become environmental casualties of development in other cities. In Atlanta, over half a million acres of trees were lost between 1973 and 1999 as the city grew. "Another case in point, environmentalists argue, is the proposed £88bn fast-rail HS2 project in Britain. In September, green campaign groups called on the pending clearance of ancient woodlands to be paused until the results of an independent review are published," notes Balch.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in The Guardian

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

A view straight down LaSalle Street, lined by high-rise buildings with an El line running horizontally over the street.

Chicago to Turn High-Rise Offices into Housing

Four commercial buildings in the Chicago Loop have been approved for redevelopment into housing in a bid to revitalize the city’s downtown post-pandemic.

April 10, 2024 - Chicago Construction News

Purple jacaranda trees in bloom in Los Angeles with tall white Art Deco buildings in background.

LA County Releases Draft Community Forest Management Plan

LA County's Chief Sustainability Office just released the discussion draft of Room to Grow, the first Community Forest Management Plan for the county.

April 21 - Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office

Aerial view of downtown Seattle, Washington at dusk.

Seattle Downtown Plan Expands Permitted Uses

The Downtown Activation Plan shifts from Euclidean to form-based zoning to encourage more commercial development.

April 21 - Governing

Large water pipe with brown water pouring out into dirt ditch.

Southern Water Infrastructure at Risk From Climate Impacts

A water main breaks somewhere in the United States every two minutes, according to an estimate from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

April 21 - The Conversation

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.