Tree Canopy planted in stratavault growing in Darwin, Australia to shade traffic and pedestrians.
Tree Canopy growing in Darwin, Australia to shade traffic and pedestrians.
  • The importance of increasing canopy cover in cities for environmental and health benefits.
  • How to assess current canopy cover and set goals for increasing it.
  • Strategies for selecting appropriate tree species, planning tree placement, and engaging the community in canopy cover initiatives.

How to increase canopy cover in cities? In today’s rapidly urbanizing world, cities are often characterized by concrete jungles, with towering buildings and minimal green spaces. However, increasing canopy cover in cities is vital for the environment and the well-being of urban dwellers.

Canopy cover refers to the layer of leaves, branches, and stems formed by the crowns of trees and other vegetation. It plays a crucial role in mitigating the adverse effects of urbanization, such as air pollution, heat island effect, and stormwater runoff.

A comprehensive approach is essential to increase canopy cover, encompassing various steps from assessing the current situation to implementing long-term maintenance strategies.

This article serves as a step-by-step guide to help cities, councils, developers and individuals increase canopy cover and create greener, healthier, and more sustainable urban environments for people to live in.

growth comparison over 10 years of the same trees

Assessing Current Canopy Cover

Before embarking on a journey to increase canopy cover, it is crucial to assess the existing canopy cover in the city. This assessment provides a baseline and helps determine the extent of improvement required. There are two primary methods for assessing canopy cover: analyzing satellite imagery and conducting on-the-ground surveys.

Satellite imagery analysis can provide a broad-scale overview of the city’s canopy cover percentage. Several tools and software are available that utilize satellite data to estimate canopy cover. On the other hand, conducting on-the-ground surveys involves physically measuring the canopy cover in different areas of the city. This method provides more accurate and detailed information but requires time and resources.

Setting Goals for Increasing Canopy Cover

Setting clear and achievable goals is essential when aiming to increase canopy cover. The desired percentage increase should be determined based on various factors such as the city’s climate, available space, and community needs. It is crucial to strike a balance between increasing canopy cover and considering other urban requirements.

For example, a city with a hot climate may aim for a higher percentage increase in canopy cover to combat the heat island effect. On the other hand, a city with limited available space may focus on strategically planting trees in key areas to maximize the impact on canopy cover. Engaging with urban planners, environmental experts, and community members can help in setting realistic and effective goals.

Collage of different tree species suitable for urban environments

Selecting Appropriate Tree Species for Urban Environments

Selecting the right tree species and soil quality is crucial for successful urban forestry initiatives. Not all tree species are suitable for urban environments due to factors such as soil conditions, climate resilience, and maintenance requirements. Researching tree species that thrive in urban environments is essential to ensure long-term success.

Native tree species that are well-adapted to the local climate and soil conditions should be prioritized. These species have a higher chance of survival and require less maintenance. Additionally, choosing a diverse range of tree species helps increase resilience against pests and diseases.

Working with local councils, arborists, horticulturists, and experts can provide valuable insights into selecting appropriate tree species for the city.

Planning Tree Placement Strategically

Strategic tree placement is crucial for maximizing canopy cover and reaping the full benefits of urban trees. It is essential to develop a comprehensive tree planting method that considers available space, proximity to buildings, and shade benefits.

Identify areas in the city where planting trees can have the most significant impact on canopy cover and environmental benefits. These areas may include parks, streets, parking lots, and public spaces. Planting trees near buildings can also provide shade and reduce energy consumption for cooling. By strategically planning tree placement, cities can optimize the positive effects of canopy cover on the urban environment.

Deciduous trees are crucial in creating urban spaces as they respond to the current season and needs of the community. Deciduous trees are trees that shed their leaves, usually during the winter or autumn season where the climate is generally cooler; so you plant deciduous trees so that during the cooler periods the heat from the sun can penetrate into the urban areas to better support and warm the community.

Please refer to our ‘Ultimate guide on how to plant trees in urban areas for more information

Trees planted in pavement to increase city tree canopy

Engaging the Community in Canopy Cover Initiatives

Increasing canopy cover in cities requires the active participation of the community, organizations, and stakeholders. Engaging the public in the process not only creates a sense of ownership but also fosters a deeper understanding of the benefits of urban trees.

Involving community members in decision-making processes and seeking their input can help tailor canopy cover initiatives to meet their needs and aspirations. Additionally, educating the public about the benefits of trees and canopy cover is crucial. This can be done through workshops, educational programs, and resources that highlight the positive impacts of urban trees on air quality, temperature regulation, and overall quality of life.

What are Effective Tree Care Practices?

Proper care and maintenance of newly planted trees is crucial for their survival and healthy growth of urban trees.

Regular watering is essential, especially during the establishment phase, to help the trees develop a strong root system you must water where the tree roots current are. Mulching around the base of trees helps retain moisture, suppresses weed growth, and regulates soil temperature.

Related: How to Promote Deeper Root Growth and Drought Tolerance

Additionally, pruning trees as needed promotes healthy growth and removes any damaged or diseased branches. Protecting trees from pests and diseases through appropriate measures, such as regular inspections and treatments, is also necessary to maintain their health and vitality.

Implementing effective tree care practices ensures that the trees thrive and contribute to the increase in canopy cover

Collaborating with Local Organizations and Stakeholders

Collaboration with local organizations, nonprofits, environmental groups, and stakeholders can provide valuable resources, funding, and expertise for increasing canopy cover. Exploring partnerships and leveraging existing networks can help cities implement their canopy cover initiatives more effectively.

Local environmental organizations may have experience and knowledge in urban forestry and can provide guidance on best practices. Government agencies can offer funding opportunities or technical expertise. By collaborating with various stakeholders, cities can tap into a broader range of resources and support, making their canopy cover initiatives more successful.

Monitoring and Evaluating Canopy Cover Progress

Continuous monitoring and evaluation are crucial to assess the progress of increasing canopy cover in the city. Monitoring the growth and health of trees provides valuable insights into the success of the initiatives and helps identify any areas that require improvement.

Regular assessments of canopy cover increase can be conducted using satellite imagery or on-the-ground surveys. Additionally, evaluating the impact of increased canopy cover on temperature reduction, air quality improvement, and overall quality of life in the city provides a holistic understanding of the benefits achieved. This data can guide future efforts and assist in making informed decisions regarding urban forestry initiatives.

Educating the Public about the Benefits of Urban Canopy Cover

Raising awareness about the importance and benefits of increasing canopy cover is essential to garner public support and involvement. Educating the public can be done through various channels such as social media campaigns, educational programs, workshops, and resources.

Highlighting the positive impacts of urban trees on air quality improvement, temperature regulation, and mental well-being can help individuals understand the importance of canopy cover. Encouraging the public to participate in tree planting initiatives and providing them with the necessary knowledge and resources empowers them to take action and contribute to creating a greener future.

Implementing Long-term Maintenance and Expansion Strategies

Increasing canopy cover is a long-term commitment that requires ongoing maintenance and expansion strategies. Planting more trees and implementing sustainable urban forestry practices ensure the continuous growth and health of the urban canopy.

Trees have lifespans decades to centuries long but urban trees have an average lifespan of just 14 years. One of the main reasons urban trees have such low lifespans is due to poor planting locations and lack of access to soil that grows healthy trees. Our Stratavault product sometimes referred to as a soil vault or soil cells is designed to help trees thrive in urban environments by giving the tree access to high quality uncompacted soil at a high volume.

How a stratavault tree pit gets made from assembling to final product.
Stratavault tree pit from assembly to final product.

On top of the benefits to the tree, stratavault also stops tree roots from impacting pavements, roads, nearby infrastructure and buildings; helping to eliminate the headache and danger tree roots bring to an underground location as tree roots are notorious for interfering and impacting underground services.

Book a Lunch N Learn with one of our Citygreen Consultants who will take your team through how our services are cooling cities and increasing tree canopy faster then traditional methods.

Continued tree planting initiatives should be integrated into urban planning and development processes. Cities that specify new trees must have a minimum soil volume in their city standards have shown to increase the tree canopy of their city.

This includes incorporating green infrastructure in new developments, retrofitting existing areas with trees, and ensuring the inclusion of urban forestry practices in city policies. Ongoing maintenance practices such as tree pruning, watering, and pest management should be established to ensure the longevity of the urban canopy cover.

Related: How to Calculate Tree Canopy Cover

Celebrating Success and Spreading the Message

Highlighting the achievements and positive impacts of increased canopy cover is crucial for inspiring others and spreading the message of creating greener, healthier, and more sustainable urban environments. Celebrating successes can be done through public events, media coverage, and community engagement.

Engaging with the community and sharing success stories creates a ripple effect, encouraging more individuals, organizations, and cities to prioritize and invest in increasing their canopy cover. By celebrating success, cities can inspire a collective effort towards creating a greener future for all.

Case Study: Penrith City Council ‘Cooling the City’ Strategy

Penrith, a vibrant city in Australia, has been addressing the adverse effects of urban heat on their constituents since they were named the hottest place on earth as they recorded a temperature of 48.9C in 2020 through innovative and community-oriented strategies.

Such initiatives like Cooling the City,” focused on planting nearly 5,000 trees across six suburbs, strategically targeting areas with low tree cover, higher temperatures, and more vulnerable residents.

They determined the most crucial areas through satellite mapping and cross referenced that with LGA census data to establish areas of low-economic & elderly residences as they are impacted the most by urban heat.

The project extended its scope beyond residential spaces, venturing into industrial estates and workplaces, areas previously overlooked for tree planting due to minimal canopy cover. This initiative not only aimed to cool neighborhoods but also engaged with local businesses, employing careful tree selection by Landscape Architects and offering maintenance guidance to ensure optimal growth.

One standout effort was Penrith Council’s comprehensive community engagement strategy. Recognizing the challenges of integrating trees into urban settings due to various concerns, such as leaf drop and space constraints, the council employed diverse engagement methods.

These included pop-up events, giveaways, and door-to-door interactions, allowing residents to opt-in or out of tree planting in their areas. Additionally, they launched the “Adopt a Tree” program, encouraging residents to plant trees on private properties, piloting with 200 trees, aimed to not only increase canopy cover in low-covered suburbs but also provided resources and guidance for proper tree care, emphasizing a collaborative approach to address urban heat challenges with nature more effectively.


Increasing canopy cover in cities is a vital step towards creating greener, healthier, and more sustainable urban environments. By following a comprehensive step-by-step approach, cities and individuals can make a significant impact on the environment and the well-being of urban dwellers.

It is crucial to assess the current canopy cover, set goals, select appropriate tree species, plan strategically, engage the community, obtain necessary permissions, implement effective tree care practices, collaborate with local organizations, monitor progress, educate the public, implement long-term maintenance strategies, and celebrate success.

Together, we can transform concrete jungles into vibrant green spaces that benefit both people and the planet. Let us take action today and contribute to a greener future.

Additional Resources:

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can benefit from increasing canopy cover in cities?

Everyone benefits from increased canopy cover, residents, wildlife, businesses, and the environment will all benefit from increased canopy cover in cities.

What is canopy cover and why is it important in cities?

Canopy cover refers to the amount of tree and vegetation coverage in an area. It is important in cities as it helps improve air quality, reduce heat island effect, increase health outcomes for the community and enhance overall livability.

How can construction projects help increase canopy cover in cities?

Construction projects can incorporate green roofs, vertical gardens, and tree planting initiatives to increase canopy cover in cities and new developments and projects. For example car parks are key locations where trees can be better utilised to work as shade barriers against urban heat and absorb car related pollutants

What are some objections to increasing canopy cover in cities?

Some objections may include concerns about maintenance costs, potential damage to infrastructure, or limited space for planting trees. Stratavault solves all these issues as the soil cell stops damage to infrastructure from tree roots, and increased soil volume to trees to ensure the tree grows faster in tough urban conditions.