As part of the Leeds4Trees project, UBoC and LEAF are investigating the economic and other values of trees and green spaces, in collaboration with Treeconomics, the Sustainability Service Living Lab Programme at the University of Leeds, Leeds City Council, The Woodland Trust and Forest Research.

i-Tree is one of a number of tools that UBoC is working with which attempt to evaluate ecosystem services.

Over the summers of 2017, 18 and 19 we carried out a full survey of the University of Leeds campus using i-Tree Eco – the most suitable tool for use in the UK because it can be adapted from its native US condition to relate to local weather and air quality data.

We are also working on further surveys, including one using a sampled approach to i-Tree Eco of Middleton Ward in the south of Leeds, and one of the whole city, ward by ward, using the Canopy software. Our canopy project can be found here.

The project also aims to explore the application of other tools similar to i-Tree: including CAVATORValEcoServeInVEST BOUNTY and the Natural Capital Protocol, each of which sets out to measure different values for natural capital.

Urban green spaces such as gardens, parks and woodlands provide many benefits to people and vital habitats for wildlife. Urban vegetation stores carbon, helping to mitigate climate change, and reduces the likelihood of flooding by storing excess rain water. Green spaces can improve air quality, limit the impact of heatwaves, encourage people to undertake physical activity and reduce depression. However, these benefits are difficult to quantify and compare to other, more easily monetised, uses of land.

Local authorities are under considerable pressure to cut spending on the services they provide and those responsible for parks and woodlands lack robust information about the value to society of the green spaces they manage. A survey in London using i-Tree software revealed that the city’s 8.5 million trees are contributing approximately £2.8 million per year in flood alleviation, £4.8 million per year in terms of carbon sequestration, and over £100 million per year in terms of air quality improvement.

The first stage of our Leeds-wide project will involve a detailed evaluation of the trees at the University of Leeds, using the campus as a testbed and employing i-Tree Eco software, to deliver an assessment of the ecosystem services they provide. As well as understanding the current woodland resource, this assessment will inform operational decision making at the University and facilitate future decision making on planting in and around campus.

See also our blog here.