Community Tree Canopy
In 2014, there were 44.8 million community trees providing millions of tons of air quality benefits valued in the tens of millions of dollars. However, most Kansas communities have mature to overmature trees being degraded by repetitive storms, drought, flooding and insect and disease issues and canopy coverage is diminishing.
Over a period of four and half years, the Kansas Forest Service mapped where canopy cover exists in 670 incorporated cities in the state for tree boards, city staff and city leadership to see where canopy coverage exists and is lacking. Below you will find more information about the project, as well as the impact that tree canopies have on our communities across the state.
Using 2015 high resolution land cover data, natural features and impervious surfaces were analyzed for 669 communities in Kansas by the Kansas Forest Service from funding provided by the USDA Forest Service. Land cover in each community was digitally represented from 1-meter aerial imagery from the National Agriculture Imagery Program.
Every community has a forest. This project sought to collect baseline data for future decision-making and is intended to guide tree planting and canopy enhancement in your community. Tree cover is not equally spread throughout a community so identifying where shade and canopy protection is not present can be a starting point to developing short and long-term canopy goals for your community.
Each city’s features were categorized into the following land cover classes: 1) Tree Cover, 2) Bare Ground, 3) Grass, 4) Hard Surface, and 5) Water. Land cover classes with bare ground and grass likely contain some areas suitable for tree planting while the hard surface class may offer a few locations suitable for planting with modifications. The below community map identifies the percentage of canopy cover in your community.
Trees are mitigators of heat and cold and when structures consume less energy to heat and cool, energy costs are reduced. When there is less demand from power plants, fewer air pollutants are released. Trees store large amounts of carbon in their wood and tree canopies sequester carbon, a greenhouse gas. Tree canopies intercept air pollutants, including ground-level ozone that can injure lungs. Trees help alleviate mental distress and create comfortable outdoor spaces for recreation and exercise. Patients recover from illness and hospitalizations quicker when exposed to trees and nature. Trees make business districts more desirable for shoppers and more profitable for merchants. Homes sales and revenue increase and apartments rent quicker where canopy coverage exists. Water quality is improved when soil and contaminants are not swept into waterways and drinking water supplies when rainfall is intercepted by tree canopies. Community trees can provide critical habitat for numerous birds and wildlife.
When trees are present, community health is improved. Tree canopies intercept four common pollutants: ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns. Particulate matter, especially, causes numerous health problems. All four pollutants contribute, at differing levels, to the following health incidences:
Acute respiratory symptoms
Hospital admissions (cardiovascular)
Lower respiratory symptoms
School loss days
Hospital admissions (respiratory)
Upper respiratory symptoms
Work loss days
Emergency room visits
Acute myocardial infarction
- Identify plantable locations where canopy is absent in the community
- Create short and long-term budget projections to increase canopy coverage throughout the community
- Plant and maintain (establish) trees along streets and in parks to fill canopy voids
- Target tree establishment programs in neighborhoods where structures lack air conditioning
- Identify locations where tree planting locations can be created in Hard Surface areas
- Weave tree establishment programs into:
- Stormwater strategies and management programs
- Air quality strategies and management programs
- Community health programs
- Community and economic development programs
- Sustainability efforts and programs
- Developmental planning
- Climate strategies and management programs
- Educate residents about the benefits of canopy coverage to encourage tree protection and new tree establishment on private properties
- Forge partnerships that support tree protection and/or establishment efforts with:
- Realtors and realty associations
- Builders, developers, architects, landscape architects and landscape designers
- Green industry professionals
- Merchant and business associations
- Economic development associations
- Health care providers
- Community foundations
- Adult civic organizations
- Youth civic youth organizations
- Senior centers and senior service providers
- Service providers for the disadvantaged and underserved
- Workforce development agencies
- Conduct a public tree inventory to gather data, such as species, size and condition, to inform tree establishment programs and canopy goals
- Set a canopy coverage goal for your community
By protecting, planting, maintaining and managing community trees, you make the Great Plains environment more bearable for the people who live in and visit your city. As might be expected, canopy coverage estimates for northeast and southeast Kansas is between 24% and 28% while southwest and northwest Kansas are below 16%. Even in the toughest of conditions, 25% to 35% canopy coverage is possible in any Kansas community. As the trend of losing 1% or more of canopy coverage continues in the years to come, our cities will become hotter and less healthy. Will your city join us in this effort?
The below map differentiates between five land cover types; tree canopy, grass, bare ground, hard surface and water. Areas with grass and bare ground may contain plantable spaces and areas with hard surfaces will be hot areas in high need of shade. The map can also help identify areas in the community where canopy coverage is needed.
To register for a workshop in your community, visit our event page.
Directions for using the map:
- Select your community on the map below by entering an address or community in the search bar. The basemap gallery widget (next to the printer widget) will let you choose another basemap.
- You will see the percentages for five land cover classes, tree, grass, bare ground, impervious and water, will appear. This work was funded by the USFS-NRS.