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Charlotte's Tree Canopy Cover Increases To 47 Percent

Flickr/Erik Cleves Kristensen

  A new report on tree canopy cover shows that Charlotte and Mecklenburg County both saw an increase in the percentage of land shaded by trees between 2008 and 2012.

Engineers will present the full results of the latest study before city council Monday night.

In 2008, half of Mecklenburg County was shaded by trees. In 2012, using newer technology, researchers at the University of Vermont found that 51 percent of the county was shaded by trees.

The city of Charlotte also saw a one percent increase. From 46 percent in 2008 to 47 percent in 2012.

Credit City of Charlotte
A chart shows the amount of tree canopy increased for the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg county by one percent. It also details the percentage of impervious (asphalt or concrete surfaces) and vegetated areas theoretically available for planting trees. The latest report is considered the most accurate and precise to date. It used high-resolution aerial imagery and laser technology (LiDAR) to calculate the amount of tree cover.

If the city and county keeps it up, it may be on track to meeting the goal city council set in 2011 of having 50 percent tree cover by the year 2050. But that's a big IF. Tim Porter is the city's senior urban forester.

"I think it is a very bold, but realistic goal," Porter says. "Right now we're at 47. To get to 50 it could absolutely take hundreds of thousands of trees."

Gina Shell, deputy director of the city's engineering and property management team says residents have helped keep the percentage of tree canopy stable in a growing, urban area.  

"It's going to take efforts not just by the city of what we might be able to plant on public property, but also all of our residents, caring about trees, planting trees and taking care of them," Shell says. 

The study shows that about 36 percent of the land in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County is available for tree planting. One caveat: it doesn't distinguish between spaces like golf courses and open fields.

It also found that many low-income areas in Mecklenburg have relatively low amounts of tree cover.

And within Charlotte, the Steele Creek area in the southwest part of city and Rocky River Road area in northeast Charlotte were identified as having the greatest amount of land available to plant trees.