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Monitoring Urban Forest Assets

The community of trees, shrubs and other vegetation within the built environment, are becoming recognised as 'assets' for their contribution to health and quality of life along with environmental, social and economic benefits.


City Councils, developers and land managers are therefore increasingly under pressure to maintain, restore and increase green space and canopy cover to target levels in accordance with Urban Forest and Greening Strategies.

Understanding the spatial characteristics and temporal change of the Urban Forest plays an important role in planning, management and ongoing assessments, while ensuring that effective strategies can be established to meet these targets.

Manage what you can measure

Airborne Remote Sensing is a well proven tool that can help the monitoring and management of Urban Forests by:

  • Combining data from the spectral response of vegetation (health) with photogrammetric height modelling

  • Establishing an objective baseline of vegetation/canopy cover and distribution across land classes

  • Repeatable methodology for comparative assessments of vegetation health, cover and distribution over time

  • Providing complete coverage of the area of interest with tree-level detail

Mapping and measuring canopy loss

Canopy cover targets can be achieved through a long-term combination of planting programs alongside the reduction of ongoing canopy losses.


Understanding where canopy losses occur and the reasons why forms an important part in the development of mitigation strategies (ie policy changes) and to direct replanting efforts.

SpecTerra data allows detailed mapping of 'significant' tree losses over time, that can be attributed to:

  • Tree removal as a result of urban infill

  • Broader scale impact following changes in zoning and residential R Codes

  • Canopy losses from Main Roads work programs and other infrastructure developments such as the expansion of schools and shopping centres

  • Mortalities from dieback, fire or other natural causes

Land class statistics for data interrogation and reporting

Integrating annual canopy cover data with GIS land boundaries provides City Councils a greater depth of information relating to canopy cover, distribution and change over time.

Potential applications include:

  • Classification of verge parcels with no canopy cover to direct street tree planting programmes

  • Grading land classes and suburbs according to canopy cover and losses

  • Quick reporting on the canopy status of land-types such as schools, golf courses and public open spaces

  • A detailed assessment of the longer-term canopy cover evolution across wards, suburbs, land types and their contribution towards canopy targets

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