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INCREASING a city’s tree canopy contributes to lowering urban temperatures by blocking shortwave radiation and increasing water evaporation. Creating more comfortable microclimates, trees also mitigate air pollution caused by everyday urban activities. Their absorptive root systems also help avoid floods during severe rains and storm surges. So overall, trees are pretty awesome.

CITIES around the world are recognizing this and many are developing strategies to increase green canopy cover. In fact, in 2015, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Agenda Council (GAC) on the Future of Cities included increasing green canopy cover on their list of top ten urban initiatives: “Cities will always need large—infrastructure projects, but sometimes small—scale infrastructure—from cycle lanes and bike sharing to the planting of trees for climate change adaptation—can also have a big impact on an urban area.”

AS cities around the world race to implement green canopy strategies, we’ve developed a metric—the Green View Index—by which to evaluate and compare canopy cover. In collaboration with the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities and the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers community, we will continue to grow this database to span cities all over the globe. What does your green canopy look like?An online map launched by the MIT Senseable City Lab, Treepedia measures cities’ green canopies in 20 urban centers across the globe, specifically the portion of trees and other vegetation that is visible above ground. The MIT team behind the project relied on data from Google Street View to create a “Green View Index,” which quantifies both overall tree coverage and the amount of coverage on a given street within a city.

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X Li, C Zhang, W Li, R Ricard, Q Meng, W Zhang (2015). Assessing street-level urban greenery using Google Street View and a modified green view index. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 14 (3), 675-685

I Seiferling, N Naikc, C Ratti, R Proulx (2017). Green streets − Quantifying and mapping urban trees with street-level imagery and computer vision. Landscape and Urban Planning 165: 93–101

X Li, C Ratti (2018). Mapping the spatial distribution of shade provision of street trees in Boston using Google Street View panoramas. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 31: 109-119


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