We are surveying all the newly planted street trees in Birmingham to check that they are thriving and growing well. Nina Griffiths, one of the BTP trustees, is making sure our young trees are being looked after properly, in order to help them grow into mature trees to increase Birmingham’s canopy cover, reduce air pollution and urban heating, amongst many other factors. Volunteer tree surveyors are being trained to undertake the survey work with our help.
Why survey the street trees?
The general overview of this survey is to asses the crown dieback, overall condition, and potential damage of street trees, old and newly planted. This will determine we can proceed with planting new species suitable for the warming climate. We will do this by increasing canopy cover in priority wards around Birmingham, and improving the upkeep of our street trees. Based on an American model, TreePlotter analysis is used to record the findings.
So how do you carry out a survey on street trees? This video gives you an idea:
Where are the findings?
Street Trees: 2022
Here is the presentation with the interim findings of the Newly Planted Street Tree Survey, given to the Municipal Tree Officers Association on 7th Dec 2022:
Street Trees: 2023
Our findings, despite 69.5% of the surveyed trees being in good condition, were 7.4% poor and 2.5% dead. Additionally, only 18.2% were fair, meaning there will be many solutions to raise the percentage of good and fair condition trees. Most of the trees have date and time reference for planting; we can track the timing of the damage.
We noticed from the data that forest trees like beeches are being planted, and trees from predominantly the rose family, like cherries. The problem is, these are susceptible to bacterial canker. Additionally, liquidambars appear frequently, although not native, and are thriving on our roads due to heat islands.
Root problems, loose trees, soil size, staking, vandalism, species selection, and low to no mulching (87.7%!) are all contributing factors to the failure of the trees in certain locations. It was found during a US study, that we have modeled ours on, that most of the trees died in poorer areas of the cities.
That’s why BTP are working on ‘red wards‘ or priority wards – areas that suffer from low income, and therefore low tree equity.
The citizen science involved in this survey is ideal for informing the city council, highways and planting agencies. They have been mistakenly planting the wrong kinds of trees, due to nursery demands being five years in advance. We can inform them of the appropriate trees for the location. Science-driven planting is what we strive for. Informative, constructive, and science-based evidence for planting trees in certain street locations will improve the quality of those areas exponentially.