Cuyahoga County Planning Commission
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Cuyahoga County Urban Tree Canopy Assessment

Tree canopy (TC) is the layer of leaves, branches, and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above. Tree canopy provides many benefits to communities, improving water quality, reducing erosion, reducing stormwater runoff, saving energy, lowering city temperatures, reducing air pollution, enhancing property values, providing wildlife habitat, facilitating social and educational opportunities, and providing aesthetic benefits. Establishing a tree canopy goal is crucial for communities seeking to improve their green infrastructure. A tree canopy assessment is the first step in this goal-setting process, providing estimates for the amount of tree canopy currently present in a city as well as the amount of tree canopy that could theoretically be established.

How Much Tree Canopy Does Cuyahoga County Have?

An analysis of Cuyahoga County's tree canopy (TC) based on land cover data derived from high-resolution aerial imagery, LiDAR, and other sources (Figure 1) found that nearly 110,000 acres of the county were covered by tree canopy (termed Existing TC), representing 37.6% of all land in the county. An additional 44.8% (371,000 acres) of the county could theoretically be modified (termed Possible TC) to accommodate tree canopy (Figure 2). In the Possible TC category, 15.3% (44,500 acres) of the county was classified as Impervious Possible TC and another 29.5% was Vegetated Possible TC (86,000 acres). Vegetated Possible TC, or grass and shrubs, is more conducive to establishing new tree canopy, but establishing tree canopy on areas classified as Impervious Possible TC will have a greater impact on water quality and summer temperatures.

pie chart and map
Figure 1: Land cover derived from high-resolution aerial imagery for Cuyahoga County
stacked bar chart
Figure 2: TC metrics for Cuyahoga County based on % of land area covered by each TC type

 

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KEY TERMS

Tree Canopy (TC): The layer of leaves, branches, and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above.

Land Cover: Physical features on the earth mapped from aerial or satellite imagery, such as trees, grass, water, and impervious surfaces.

Existing TC: The amount of urban tree canopy present when viewed from above using aerial or satellite imagery.

Possible TC: Total area theoretically available for establishment of additional tree canopy

Impervious Possible TC: Asphalt or concrete surfaces, excluding roads and buildings, that are theoretically available for the establishment of tree canopy.

Vegetated Possible TC: Grass or shrub area that is theoretically available for the establishment of tree canopy.

Non-Plantable Areas: Vegetated areas that have been eliminated from consideration for tree planting, such as athletic fields, agricultural areas, and non-wooded natural areas.