Canadian urban tree canopy cover and carbon sequestration status and change 1990–2012

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Urban trees provide numerous ecosystem goods and services by providing shade, habitat for wildlife, removal of air pollutants and the removal and storage of atmospheric CO2. Carbon removal services provided by Canadian urban trees have previously been assessed using an IPCC 2006 guidelines approach based on the percentage of urban area covered by tree canopy (UTC) for the 2012 time period (Pasher et al., 2014). That work however provided only a single point in time assessment of the national scale UTC and carbon removal services. The research undertaken for this study was a continuation of this earlier work focusing on a 1990 national scale UTC assessment and carbon sequestration estimates for 1990. UTC estimates for 1990 were developed using a point sampling approach with circa 1990 air photos covering a large portion of Canadian urban areas. In total almost 179,000 points were sampled for the 1990 time period, reassessing 83% of the points used for the previous 2012 assessment. Based on the urban area boundary layers for 1991 and 2011, Canada's urban areas grew by an estimated 6% for this time period. Most of this growth occurred through conversion of agricultural and forested lands to urban. At the national scale the UTC for 1990 was estimated to be 27.6%, as compared to the 2012 UTC estimate of 26.1%, the difference between estimates for the two time periods fell within the uncertainty range. Carbon removal estimates based on the UTC estimates were also very similar for the two dates with 660.2 kt C removed in 1990 and 662.8 kt C removed in 2012. It was noted that urban development in the Prairie regions resulted in an increase in tree cover as compared to the pre-conversion agricultural and natural landscapes and also that in most urban areas across the country UTC increases through time as tree cover matured in newly developed urban areas. These two assessments provide a time series of urban trees for 22 year time period, which will be useful for further studies and analysis.




McGovern, M., & Pasher, J. (2016). Canadian urban tree canopy cover and carbon sequestration status and change 1990–2012. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 20, 227–232.

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