Canopy

Atlanta's Trees Need Your Help


Trees provide shade, clean the air, and reduce storm water runoff. Trees improve our quality of life and give us beauty, food, and habitat for wildlife and pollinators. Every day, this important resource — our urban forest — is increasingly under threat. As residents, voters, and environmental stewards, we want Atlanta’s elected officials and community leaders to know that we all care about the trees in our city.

Urban Tree Canopy Study




Project at a Glance
The City of Atlanta contracted researchers at the Center for Geographic Information Systems (CGIS) and the Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development (CQGRD) at Georgia Tech to quantify the existing Urban Tree Canopy in the City. Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) is defined as the layer of leaves, branches and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above. 

The aim of the Atlanta UTC study is to help City decisionmakers and stakeholders better understand and manage their forest resources. Specific goals for this assessment were to (1) map urban tree canopy and other land cover across the City; (2) quantify tree cover for various geographies within the city (neighborhoods, NPUs, council districts, parks, zoning and land use, watersheds, stream buffers); (3) establish a baseline for measuring canopy change over time; (4) identify planting sites; and (5) summarize and make recommendations based on findings.

Summary of Findings
The research team estimates that in October 2008:

  • 47.9% (40,524 acres) of the land within the city limits was covered by urban tree canopy (UTC)
  • 22.1% (18,722 acres) was covered by non-tree vegetation (NTV) such as grass, shrubs, and other plants
  • and 30.0% (25,386 acres) was covered by non-vegetation (NV) such as paved surfaces and buildings.

To view the Google Maps click here.

How Does Atlanta Compare To Other Cities?

At 47.9 %, Atlanta has the highest percentage of overall urban tree canopy in the nation when compared to other cities that have conducted UTC Assessments. While many variables affect the presence of tree canopy – ranging from geography and climate to development patterns, tree protection and planting policies – at the turn of the 21st century, Atlanta remains a “City in the Forest.”

Canopy Conversations

Trees are iconic to Atlanta. In fact, we’re frequently called the “City in a Forest.” The most recent canopy data available shows 48% of the City of Atlanta is covered by tree canopy. We know this to be a reduction from earlier decades, and the robust economic and development growth in our city continue to threaten our canopy coverage. We celebrate Atlanta’s success while advocating for smart growth. This is echoed by Mayor Reed who has committed to “no net canopy loss” for the city.

Canopy Conversations are about informing concerned residents on the state of the canopy in the City of Atlanta and their own neighborhood. In a series of localized presentations in various neighborhoods, Trees Atlanta will be discussing canopy coverage, notable trees collections or specimens in their area (many enjoy being home to one or more Champion Trees), and offering resources and strategies for protecting and conserving the trees in their own neighborhoods.

Among our neighborhoods, canopy coverage ranges widely from a high of 83% in Butner-Tell to a low of 3% in Downtown. You might be surprised to find out where your neighborhood ranks. Trees Atlanta can schedule a community meeting with you to conduct a Canopy Conversation (info below). Meanwhile please explore the Tree Canopy data tool developed by Georgia Tech for Trees Atlanta, made possible by funding from the City of Atlanta and the Google Fund of Tides Foundation.

To request a Canopy Conversation for your neighborhood, please contact treehouse@treesatlanta.org. Scheduled neighborhood Canopy Conversations will be posted on our calendar of events along with all of our many youth and adult education programs, community events, and volunteer projects.

Advocacy

Is there a forest at risk in your neighborhood? We want to hear from you. Contact Trees Atlanta’s Canopy Conservation Coordinator at christina@treesatlanta.org.