The Woodland trust, the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity, has purchased Bluesky’s National Tree Map that details more than 280 million trees across England and Wales. Created from Bluesky’s high resolution aerial photography, colour infrared data and height datasets, the National Tree Map database provides details of the location, height and canopy / crown size for all trees that are three metres and taller.
The Woodland Trust intends to use the National Tree Mapto undertake assessments of the scale of current tree cover, including in urban areas, to support their work developing resilient treescapes. This will help identify where further planting would bring the greatest benefit.
“The data Government has used to date to calculate statistics about woodland cover only includes areas of woodland above a specific size,” commented Dr Nick Atkinson, Senior Conservation Advisor at the Woodland Trust. “We already know from our initial assessment of the Bluesky National Tree Map data that this significantly underestimates total tree cover. In fact, something like a third of all cover is outside traditional woods; such as along rivers, field boundaries, roads and railways.”
“These trees play an important but largely unsung role in providing habitat and linking woodland patches together,” continued Atkinson. “They also deliver important ecosystem services such as soil conservation, insect pollinator habitat and protection for crops and livestock.”
Following careful evaluation the Woodland Trust purchased the National Tree Map data to supplement existing datasets such as the Government’s National Forest Inventory. The Bluesky data will be used alongside existing mapping within the Trust’s Geographical Information System (GIS) to evaluate the true extent of tree canopy in England and Wales. One striking revelation made by the Woodland Trust using the Bluesky data is the extent of trees in built up areas; often exceeding tree cover in the nearby countryside. These trees provide an important refuge for wildlife and as a resource for managing surface water flooding, soaking up airborne pollution and providing shade for people living in urban heat islands.
“As more and more people live in towns and cities the need to access green space and connect with nature can be met, at least in part, through the provision of urban trees,” concluded Atkinson. “The Bluesky National Tree Map gives us the opportunity to assess the scale of current tree cover within the built environment and identify where further additions would bring the greatest benefit.”