It is important for municipalities to understand and manage their urban forests, as they provide many benefits including improved air quality, reduced storm water runoff, reduced peak summer temperatures, and health benefits. The Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) study was designed to establish the baseline existing canopy, set a tree canopy goal and identify priority planting areas for increasing the tree canopy coverage for the region.
CAESER partnered with the Wolf River Conservancy to perform an UTC assessment for Shelby County and the municipalities of Munford and Atoka in Tipton County, Tennessee. The project was completed in two phases. The first phase included data gathering, creation of supporting datasets and developing summary statistics for the land cover and existing tree canopy in the study area. In the second phase, UTC goals were established and priority planting areas were identified. To determine UTC goals and identify priority planting areas, a high resolution land cover map and existing tree canopy layers were required. The land cover classification layer was derived from 1-meter resolution aerial imagery and categorizes the study area into one of 5 categories: water, tree canopy, other vegetation, bare soil, and impervious surfaces. The overall accuracy of the classification is 94%.
Existing tree canopy height and extent was extracted from a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) point cloud. LiDAR data was used to derive the tree canopy height and extent layer and was also used to improve the land cover classification accuracy. These two layers were then used along with parcel data, environmental factors, and socioeconomic indicators to conduct a priority planting analysis to set UTC goals and determine optimal locations for increasing tree canopy for the study area as a whole, all of the municipalities in the study area, and Memphis city council districts.