Mapping our tree canopy cover

Using innovative mapping software and historical data, the University of Melbourne has analysed tree canopy cover across its campuses. This measurement informs Metric 6 in the Biodiversity Baseline Data Project, which encourages growth of on-campus tree cover, ensuring shady green spaces are available for future generations.

The Biodiversity Baseline Data Project

Metric 6 represents tree canopy cover (m2) at each of the University’s campuses. Future tree canopy cover will be compared against a baseline measurement to understand where cover has been lost and gained on campus. This will help to identify opportunities for growth and prevent future loss.

The metric forms part of the University’s Biodiversity Baseline Data Project which facilitates the University’s ‘no net loss’ of on-campus biodiversity policy. The project uses seven preliminary metrics, covering all aspects of biodiversity.

Read more about the project

Multiple students sitting underneath the shade of a row of trees
The tree canopy bordering South Lawn at Parkville campus, creates cool, shady spaces for our community to enjoy.

Calculating canopy cover

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology was used to measure changes in tree canopy cover at each of our campuses.

Beams of light are emitted from LiDAR systems and reflected by objects, such as tree canopies. The time it takes for light to be reflected is measured by the system and used to create a real-time 3D map of the environment.

Using LiDAR, 3D models of on-campus tree canopy were created at two different points in time. Comparing the models allowed Sustainability interns and Sustainability Team staff to calculate changes in canopy cover.

Next steps

Results from the tree canopy cover analyses will be used to guide opportunities to increase tree cover on campus. This will help the University achieve its ambitious goal of a net increase in biodiversity by 2030, as outlined in the University's Sustainability Plan 2030.

As a large private landholder, the University also plays an essential role in supporting councils’ achieve their tree canopy cover targets. By committing to planting more trees on campus, The University can contribute to these targets and improve habitat connectivity within the surrounding landscape for biodiversity.

Student volunteer pictured crouched down planting a small plant. Volunteer has a light blue watering can next to them and is wearing a red cap and pink jacket
Staff and student volunteers have helped revegetate our Parkville, Southbank and Werribee campuses.

How to get involved

Tree planting days, involving both staff and students, have already commenced at our Parkville, Southbank and Werribee campuses. To find out when our next tree planting day is and take part, subscribe to our mailing list.

Why does canopy cover matter?

Our university campuses support a rich diversity of tree species and their canopies. Tree canopies absorb trapped heat, enhance evaporative cooling and provide shade and habitat for wildlife. By increasing canopy cover, we can help mitigate the impacts of climate change and keep our campuses cool into the future.

Credits

Special thanks to spatial data interns Cheukyee Lai (Cherry) and Kai Lin and Sustainability Team staff members Rachael Miller, Adam Nohel, Madeline Taylor and Raymond Lu for their contributions to this project.