Written by Itziar Aguinaga Gil
Urban environmental challenges require on-site environmental solutions. As such, green infrastructure is
widely proposed as a feasible measure towards the resilience and sustainable
development of urban areas.
Urban forests represent the back-bone of urban
green infrastructure by connecting the rural and city interface, and they
provide both environmental and social benefits given that an adequate
implementation and management is in place. However, all efforts may fail if
there are not consistent and universal tools to quantify and characterize the necessary
factors involved in the practice, policy and decision-making process. That is
why we should consider the potentials of integrating urban forests within the
National Forest Inventory.
A new University College London (UCL) study, published in Carbon Balance and Management, used publicly-available airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data collected by the UK Environment Agency, combined with ground-based LiDAR measurements, to generate a map of carbon stored in an estimated 85,000 trees across the London Borough of Camden.
According to the researchers, urban forest can contain as much carbon as tropical rainforests. They found that areas such as Hampstead Heath store up to 178 tonnes of carbon per ha, in comparison to the median value for tropical rainforests of 190 tonnes of carbon per ha.
“The trees in our cities are important. They matter because they are close to people and are a key component of our urban environment providing beauty, shade and homes for myriad species as well as absorbing carbon and pollutants. The work being carried out at UCL is adding color and detail to this understanding,” said Sir Harry Studholme, Chair of the Forestry Commission.
LiDAR uses millions of laser pulses to build a very detailed picture of the 3D structure of trees. This allows the team to accurately estimate how much carbon the trees have absorbed via photosynthesis during their lives. It also allows them to estimate the carbon sink provided by urban trees, important for helping to offset fossil fuel emissions.
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UK urban forest can store as much carbon as tropical rainforests
Urban ‘forests’ can store almost as much carbon as tropical rainforests