A new project examining the structure and composition of the urban forest in the Black Country, West Midlands, is underway.

The study, which commenced in June 2021, and is due to complete in October 2022, aims to provide valuable information about the trees that grow there: which species are resident, how sustainable the trees are, and what they are contributing to the environment, as well as to the people who live and work there.

This information will help the Black Country to make informed management decisions about its trees, well into the future.

The study is being led by the Black Country Consortium and is funded by the Woodland Trust. It involves a partnership led by consultancy Treeconomics, together with Forest Research, Birmingham Tree People, and Barton Hyett Associates.

Together, the team will work to identify the area’s overall tree cover, where the trees are situated, their condition, and the environmental benefits they are delivering year on year.

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Emma Forde, of the Black Country Consortium, commented: “The Black Country has rich, natural environmental assets, but too many of these assets are inaccessible or not celebrated. The perception of the Black Country is often one of heavy industry, but the region is predominantly green; one of trees and open spaces. It is this image that we wish to see brought to the forefront, enhancing green assets, and making them more accessible to local people and visitors. The environment is critical to the health and well-being of future residents, workers, and visitors to the Black Country.

“It is also both a major contributor to, and measure of, wider goals for sustainable development and living, as well as being significantly important to the economy of the region. This i-Tree Eco study will provide evidence to these claims.”

Ian McDermott, of Birmingham Tree People, added: “We were delighted to be part of this project, one of the biggest studies in the UK, utilising volunteers from within the community.  We are grateful to the BCC for having the foresight to include this requirement in the tender and we have already gotten several tree wardens through their i-Tree training modules and out into the field.”

Data collection for the study will be carried out by teams of experienced surveyors, supplemented by trained volunteers. They will measure the trees on both public and private land, across 1,000 sample plots, in a variety of urban locations: parks, woodlands, as well as public and private land.

Once the fieldwork is complete, the data will be analysed using i-Tree, a software suite used around the world to assess the structural value and environmental benefits of urban trees.

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