Calculating the benefits of trees across the West Midlands

My start at Barton Hyett Associates Ltd coincided with the beginning of an i-Tree Eco surveying project undertaken in collaboration with Treeconomics  and volunteers from Birmingham Tree People. This work is being completed on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority (consisting of Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry councils) and will not only provide council staff and residents with a picture of tree canopy cover across the cities but will also quantify some of the benefits these trees provide. It does this by calculating a number of ‘ecosystem services’, all of which are specific to tree species and sizes. These benefits include: carbon sequestration and storage; take up of rain water (reducing flooding); and quantifying the difference trees make to the urban heat island effect (keeping cities cooler and reducing energy consumption).

How does i-Tree work?

Completing an i-Tree survey across three local authorities is no small task but is achievable using the best technology, methods, trained volunteers and expert arboricultural surveyors. To save surveying and recording every tree in the West Midlands the software selects  1000 randomised but evenly distributed plots across the whole area.

Woodlands, back gardens, industrial estates and golf courses…

This means that some plots are in woodlands, some are on top of multi-storey car parks, and some are in resident’s gardens.

Surveyors are tasked with carefully recording all tree data within the plot as well as information about the plot itself – ground permeability, site usage etc. using GIS software on mobile devices.

A warm welcome and keen interest

Whilst the i-Tree project has been given local media exposure, it is not possible to contact every household and land owner individually. That means that when I and the other surveyors engage with people it’s often totally out of the blue. I’ve had several plots on airfields, on Department of Education Land and on golf courses (all three golf courses have kindly provided me with a golf cart and have left me to it!), as well as plenty of residential gardens

How would you react if you’d never heard of an ‘i-Tree survey’ before and two nice people dropped round to measure the trees in your garden? In fact, the vast majority of people are interested, accommodating and looking forward to seeing the results.

Survey results – a long term impact on the West Midlands

Once complete, this will be the one of the biggest i-Tree projects in the UK to date and it will be great to be able to say I’ve been a part of it. It’s also great fun on a day to day basis to explore an area and tree stock in a totally unique way and to engage with people about trees.

We’re aiming to finish surveying by the end of September and then it will be over to Treeconomics, based in Exeter, to analyse the vast amount of data and deliver the results to the Combined Authorities who can use it to measure and plan to optimise the benefits of trees for locals and visitors. Look out for the results in early 2024 and, if you ever get the chance to be involved in an i-Tree project, I can thoroughly recommend it!

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