Tree management

​Charlotte's Tree Canopy Assessment

The City of Charlotte recently released a key snapshot measuring how well our urban forest is faring: An updated canopy assessment.

Charlotte’s Urban Forest Master Plan recommended updating the canopy assessment every five years. This 2016 data updates the previous 2012 assessment. The next analysis will be done in 2021. 

The canopy assessment aimed to measure changes and evaluate whether tree program strategies and protection policies are needed. View the full tree canopy assessment​ prepared by plan-it GEO ​.

Findings

Our consultant, plan-it GEO​, compared 2012 tree canopy coverage to 2016 coverage and found that Charlotte’s 2016 canopy remains similar to 2012 levels. 

  • 2012 data: 47.1% tree canopy
  • 2016 data: 46.8% tree canopy (0.3% loss of tree canopy​, +/- .9% margin of error)

Several examples of canopy growth and loss were observed throughout the city. Canopy loss was typically from clear-cut areas and areas where individual trees were removed for new development. Canopy gains came from new tree plantings, reforested logged areas and natural growth of existing trees.

​While the canopy appears to be at a steady level, improving technology makes it difficult to compare data from the 2012 and 2016 studies. What we can tell is that Charlotte is losing many large swaths of contiguous forest that are being replaced with individual trees, as required by the tree ordinance. These smaller forest patches will decrease the benefits that trees provide to citizens. 

Recommendations

The data has led staff to rethink the 50 percent canopy goal and move from a single metric of 50 percent coverage to a menu of metrics designed to inspire and engage the community. Some of these metrics could include:

  • Recognizing and celebrating individual neighborhoods with 50 percent or more tree canopy

  • Creating 50 “urban arboreta” to celebrate and educate people about trees

City Council will hear about the updated goal in July 2019

​Resources and information

Charlotte is backing off its goal of 50 percent tree canopy by 2050​ - UNC Charlotte Urban Institute​

​Tree canopy assessment report