The vast majority of the human population now resides in urban centres – this trend of urbanisation is set to continue. By 2050, it is projected that nearly 7 billion people globally will be living in towns and cities.

As a consequence of construction and development predominated by engineered materials like concrete, tarmac, steel, and natural stone, urban environments like towns and cities are prone to excess heating – known as the urban heat island effect – and flash flooding resulting from intense rainfall events. Both of these processes are becoming more common and severe with the effects of climate change.

Introducing more natural materials into our urban centres can help to alleviate and mitigate some of these effects. Nature-based Solutions and Green Infrastructure offer alternatives to more tradition built or engineered approaches, and typically provide multiple benefits that increase in value following establishment.

Increasing tree canopy cover in our towns and cities can provide cooling (through shading, reflection, evapotranspiration, and reduced reliance on air conditioning), and can reduce the risk and impact of flash flooding (by slowing flow rates, absorbing ground water, and increasing percolation). In addition to these services, urban trees provide us with a multitude of other benefits that increase our well-being on many levels.

Planting trees in urban environments can be a challenge, but there is a tree that is suitable for almost any situation. Growing our urban forests and increasing the tree canopy cover they provide will make our towns and cities better prepared for future climate scenarios and will ensure that they are pleasant and liveable places in which we can reside.

If you have a garden, or even a balcony or patio, you can help to increase tree canopy cover by planting a tree – no matter how big – and contributing to the wealth of benefits they provide us all.

In this video, Dr Matthew Ling, the Project Lead for the Cambridge Canopy Project at Cambridge City Council provides an overview of the Project, the urban forestry concept, the wealth of benefits that can be realised from exposure to trees in our towns and cities, and what you can do to help.

Tree planting guidance:

You can find more resources to help you find the perfect tree for your garden and give it the best start by clicking here.

A short video guiding you through the steps to planting a tree is available here.

Free Trees for Babies:

Cambridge City Council has been gifting free trees to city residents to celebrate the births of their children for the last 20 years. Since 1999, 2,800 free trees have been given away to city residents, contributing significantly to Cambridge’s urban forest and its tree canopy cover.

If you are a new or expectant parent living in Cambridge and would like a free tree to plant in your garden, or would simply like to find out more about the scheme, click here.

Neighbourhood canopy campaign:

Whilst the benefits we receive from trees and canopy cover are well understood, it is also true that not everyone profits from these equally. Tree canopy cover in Cambridge varies from ward to ward. Newnham in the west of the city has nearly 23% cover, while Cherry Hinton and Abbey in the east have only 13%.

Unequal distribution of trees and green spaces across towns and cities has been found to provide the least benefit to members of society that need it the most, with affluent areas often being very leafy and green, and deprived areas often devoid of trees.

To address this inequality of tree canopy cover across Cambridge, we have launched the Neighbourhood Canopy Campaign which sets out to identify areas with low tree canopy cover and prioritise them based on their need.

In these priority areas, free trees and shrubs, including fruit and pollinating species, will be given away to residents to plant in their gardens to help improve tree canopy cover.

To find out more, click here.

Additional reading and resources:

The benefits of tree cover – Landscape Journal – Autumn 2020: Greener Recovery by Landscape, the journal of the Landscape Institute: https://issuu.com/landscape-institute/docs/12316_landscape_issue_4-2020_issuu/s/11175210

The Cambridge Canopy Project issues a ‘call to action’ to city residents – article: https://www.cambridgeconservationforum.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/CCP_-Call-to-action-for-City-residents.pdf

Find out about the benefits that our trees provide us by downloading and completing one of our ‘Tree tags’: https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/media/8770/cambridge-canopy-project-tree-tags.pdf

Learn more about our urban forest with the ‘An exploration of Cambridge’s urban forest’ activity pack: https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/media/8771/cambridge-canopy-project-activity-booklet.pdf

Find out about all the ways you can help to manage the trees of our urban forest: https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/media/8772/help-us-manage-the-citys-trees.pdf

Cambridge Canopy Project

The Cambridge Canopy Project seeks to increase tree canopy cover in Cambridge to help the city mitigate against, and adapt to, the likely impacts brought about by climate change. It is Cambridge City Council’s Green Infrastructure Investment Pilot in the Interreg 2 Seas Programme ‘Nature Smart Cities across the 2 Seas’ project.

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