Tree Canopy Assessments

Urban and community forests can be considered part of the green infrastructure that complements our grey infrastructure, and should be managed with equal importance.  A tree canopy assessment is a tool to help communities analyze their current total tree canopy cover and plan for their furture tree canopy cover goals.

A tree canopy assessment can help a community determine how much of their total land area is covered by trees, identify the location of those trees, and identify where there are new opportunities to plant trees. Tree canopy assessments also determine the amount and location of impervious cover in a community. Depending on how a tree canopy assessment is conducted canopy cover can be assessed by watershed, zoning or land use category, political boundary, neighborhood, business district, census tract, or individual parcel. Results of an assessment can be evaluated through the lens of a specific community needs and can provide a blueprint of available and unavailable tree planting and conservation opportunities. These resources explore the value of and tools for tree canopy assessments.

Vermont Tree Canopy Assessments

The communities listed below have completed a comprehensive tree canopy assessment and are using the data to protect, enhance, and conserve their canopy.

Explore Tree Canopy Assessments

Urban Tree Canopy Assessments is a USDA Forest Service site that hosts a plethera of information on tree canopy assessment. 

The University of Vermont's Spatial Analysis Laboratory is home to tree canopy assessment experts. They have completed over 60 tree canopy assessments nationwide in parternship with the USDA Forest Servive.

Urban Forest Assessment Resource Guide provides a framework for practitioners interested in completing urban forest ecosystem assessments. This guide is designed to walk you through the process of selecting the best urban forest assessment tool for your needs and project. 

Tree Canopy Assessment Approaches and Tools

There are two common approaches to assessing tree canopy: using GIS imagery and photo-interpretation. GIS can be used with low (30-meter) and high (1-meter) resolution. Selecting the best approach for your project will depend on your needs and resources. 

i-Tree, software developed by the USDA Forest Service and the Davey Institute, offers two tools to asses canopy cover:  Canopy and Landscape. Canopy uses photo-interpretation to identify the land cover of a series of random points. Landscape allows you to explore tree canopy, land cover, and basic demographic information in a location of your choosing using National Land Cover Database (NLCD) to estimate canopy cover. 

If you would like a detailed and comprehensive tree canopy assessment (down to one meter), high-resolution imagery is needed and you will most likely need to work with a contractor.