South Yorkshire announces large-scale study of its tree population

This summer, teams of surveyors from across South Yorkshire will be studying the composition and condition of the region’s trees, and will be measuring the vast array of environmental benefits these are providing for the people who live and work there. The results of this study will enable the region to make strategic plans for the future of its trees, often referred to as the ‘urban forest’.

The study will generate a more complete understanding of the trees that exist in the area, helping our borough to not only protect these assets for the future, but to increase our numbers for the benefit of future generations. It supports a region-wide effort to tackle climate and ecological emergencies and supports the South Yorkshire Woodland Partnership’s primary objective, which is to increase the number of trees and woodlands planted in the area.

The survey will be led by UK consultancy Treeconomics, in partnership with South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, Barnsley Council, City of Doncaster Council, Rotherham Council, South Yorkshire Woodland Partnership, and surveyors from Treefellas Arb Ltd, Acme Arb, and Sheffield Tree Care. 

Surveying has already started and will continue throughout the summer, across 750 randomly selected plots on both public and private land.  Community engagement is an important part of this project, as surveyors will need permission to access the gardens of residents within the area. With their support, it will be possible to assess the wide range of environmental benefits provided by the region’s trees, from the carbon they store to the pollutants that they remove from the air.

Cllr James Higginbottom, Cabinet Spokesperson for Environment and Highways said: ‘We’re pleased to be working with Treeconomics and partners from across South Yorkshire to analyse our tree composition across the borough. The findings of these investigations will give a baseline assessment of our current tree canopy cover so we can make informed decisions on where to plant over the upcoming years.

“Last season, 10,296 trees were planted in Barnsley and we look forward to planting even more trees this season and developing our existing woodlands further. This is an integral part of our ambition to build a cleaner, greener and more sustainable Barnsley as well as driving our borough towards becoming Net Zero by 2045.”

Matt North from South Yorkshire Woodland Partnership said: “It's great news that this work has started! Thanks to the support from the Woodland Creation Acceleration Fund, we will be able to add to the information from the same survey for Sheffield developed a couple of years back.

“We will know what benefits trees and woodlands bring us, where they are (and aren't!), as well as potential threats, all of which will help us to improve and expand our woodland cover. This information is vital to developing a Tree and Woodland Strategy for South Yorkshire with all our local authority partners, which will include plans for tree planting and woodland creation."

The information gained during the study will be processed using i-Tree Eco, a software application that quantifies the structure and environmental effects of urban trees and calculates their value to society. i-Tree Eco has already been used in many tree studies across the UK and is used in over 100 countries worldwide.

The final report, which is due to be completed in December 2023, will provide the necessary information to underpin the decisions made by urban forest managers to improve their trees’ resilience and diversity. It will also address potential threats from a changing climate and risks associated with pests and diseases.

The study will help ensure that long-term strategic management is an integral part of urban forest management and will enable benchmarking with similar urban forest initiatives across the world to take place.

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