Aerial imagery of urban forests gives bird’s-eye view of a community’s tree canopy

MADISON — Land cover data from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Urban Forestry program can help communities determine the current state of their urban forest, identify priority areas for tree planting and calculate the ecosystem values of their urban trees.

Whether people see urban trees as art, infrastructure or the lungs of your community, they are important assets in Wisconsin, according to Dan Buckler, DNR urban forestry assessment specialist. Tree canopy cover data shows how much each community is covered by tree canopy versus how much is classified as non-woody vegetation, impervious surface (like concrete or rooftops), wetland or water.

Map showing City of New Berlin tree canopy - Photo credit: DNR
Map showing City of New Berlin tree canopyPhoto credit: DNR

“Different tools are available to identify the canopy cover of every municipality and urban area around the state,” Buckler said. “Urban areas are seeing the added value a healthy, diverse tree canopy provides to their residents.”

A land cover table and interactive map for all municipalities, urban areas and counties can be accessed through the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, by searching for keywords “Urban Forest Inventory” Raw GIS data is also available for download at dnr.wi.gov, keyword forest management.

The land classification was performed by the UW-Madison Department of Forest & Wildlife Ecology, Townsend Lab, under contract with the Department of Natural Resources. It was derived from aerial imagery captured under the National Agriculture Imagery Program in 2013. New assessments will be conducted in the future, enabling change detection in tree canopy over time.

The aim of the Urban Tree Canopy analysis is to help decision makers understand their current and future urban forest resources. The urban tree canopy is one of a variety of datasets to help assess and raise awareness across the state about the diversity, age, size, health, utility and extent of urban forests. For more information about the Wisconsin Urban Forest Assessment Program, search the DNR website for keywords “Urban Forest Inventory.”

Summary datasheets featuring a map, land cover statistics and canopy information are available for each Wisconsin municipality upon request. Questions about canopy data, or requests for community datasheets, can be sent to DNRUrbanForestryAssessment@wisconsin.gov.