Innovative tree canopy study to help manage Minneapolis trees strategically

Most people know that trees are important to any City's character, beauty, property values and air quality. Perhaps less intuitive are trees’ effects on health, crime and energy consumption. A new mapping study of the Minneapolis tree canopy, made with the latest available technologies including satellite imagery, allows City leaders to comprehensively observe the tree canopy and its gaps. That information will help strategically plan and target resources for the greatest return on investment in our tree canopy, including reduced stormwater runoff and reduced energy consumption. The canopy maps can also be overlayed with other maps of the city detailing crime, health and other indicators to explore potential correlations and strategies. 

A report released Monday, April 18 to the Minneapolis City Council’s Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee also highlights that nearly 32 percent of the City is covered in tree canopy. Our tree canopy is an important part of the urban environment and a priority for the City and its residents.

The newly released report was completed by a team at the University of Minnesota’s Remote Sensing Laboratory led by Marvin Bauer, who was recently recognized with an award from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey for his pioneering work in remote sensing of natural resources. The report not only provides citywide canopy information, it also details the tree canopy percentage for any section – parcel, block or neighborhood – of the city and provides a ranking of where neighborhoods stand in relation to one another in terms of tree canopy. The report also confirms that not only is the majority of the City's tree canopy on residential property, but the greatest potential for new tree canopy also lies on residential property.

The work also elevates our collective awareness of our tree canopy potential. By providing an overlay of the tree canopy that can be viewed with maps of crime, health and other indicators, the report helps City leaders and participating neighbors focus resources on the most strategic places to plant more trees.

This report goes a step further than a tree canopy field study completed in 2004 that showed the Minneapolis canopy at 26 percent. How does the Minneapolis tree canopy rank at 32 percent compared to other cities that have completed urban tree canopy assessments? The most recent studies show Baltimore at 49 percent; Burlington, Vt. at 43 percent; Washington, D.C. at 35 percent; Boston at 29 percent; Des Moines, Iowa at 27 percent; New York at 24 percent and Providence, R.I. at 23 percent.

The study was funded by a $29,000 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Metro Greenways grant and $2,000 each from the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

See the Minneapolis tree canopy summary and report.

Published Apr 18, 2011