Citizen science groups and volunteers, engaged through local urban forest volunteer schemes, will play a significant role in a new study of the West Midlands Urban Forest. The study, commissioned by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), will investigate and record the composition, condition, ecosystem services, replacement value, and many other characteristics of the urban forest. The surveying is due to start in early July, and once complete will be the largest of its kind within the UK.

The study will be managed in partnership, by Birmingham TreePeople, Treeconomics, Barton Hyett Associates, and Forest Research, who were commissioned by WMCA. It will involve an assessment of over 1,000 sample plots across Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry. These plots will fall on both public and private land, providing a comprehensive picture of the area’s urban forest. This study has been made possible through funding received from the Emergency Tree Fund (ETF), administered by The Woodland Trust, and support’s the WMCA’s ambition to expand the woodland cover of the region, to tackle both the climate and ecological emergencies.

The information gained during the study will be processed using i-Tree Eco, a software application that quantifies the structure and environmental effects of urban trees, and calculates their value to society. i-Tree Eco has already been used in many tree studies across the UK. The study will produce a detailed report of the WMCA’s urban forest, which covers a significant geographical area. The data will be used to enhance and inform tree management decisions and ambitions identified in Birmingham’s Urban Forest Master Plan, produced in 2021. It will also focus efforts associated with the 5-year plan for tackling carbon emissions and the Natural Environment Plan.

Having the data will enable local initiatives, such as tree planting programmes, to be coordinated and prioritised according to local requirements, considering environmental and social factors like air pollution, public health and well-being. The study will complement the i-Tree survey, that took place in 2022 in the Black Country.

The final report, due to be completed in December 2023, will provide the necessary information to underpin the decisions made by urban forest managers, to improve their trees’ resilience and diversity. It will also address potential threats from a changing climate, and risks associated with pests and diseases.

The study will help ensure that long-term strategic management is an integral part of urban forest management and will enable benchmarking with similar urban forest initiatives across the world to take place.