Seattle has a long-standing commitment to its urban trees. Because of the many environmental, social and economic benefits these trees provide, they are essential to enhancing the community’s quality of life, especially as Seattle grows. The collective impact is significant: Seattle’s urban forest removes 725 metric tons of pollution from the environment and sequesters carbon at a level valued at $11.7 million annually.
One of the ways we learn more about Seattle’s trees is by measuring canopy cover. Canopy cover is the layer of branches, stems and leaves of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above. Canopy cover assessments tell us the extent of Seattle’s trees and where they are located; critical information for urban forestry work planning, management and addressing disparities.
Seattle’s goal is to achieve a 30 percent canopy cover by 2037. Last year, the City commissioned a canopy cover assessment to determine how close we are to reaching that goal. The analysis showed that Seattle has 28 percent canopy cover. The study used LiDAR (light detection and ranging), and it represents the most accurate accounting of Seattle’s canopy to date.
This study provides the foundation for understanding the quantity, distribution and configuration of tree canopy in Seattle. The true value of this study will be realized when the results are used to guide urban forestry policy and management efforts, such as establishing localized canopy goals and targeted planting and conservation efforts to maximize limited results.
The City’s urban forestry team, composed of staff from the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle City Light, Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, Office of Sustainability and Environment, Seattle Parks and Recreation and Seattle Public Utilities developed the study’s research questions and will be in charge of incorporating the study’s results into current policy and management efforts.
For more information, or to download a copy of the final report, visit Seattle’s Canopy Cover webpage.