14 October 2021

Well, here we are, again. I know what you are thinking… again? What does he mean? Let me explain. Torbay Council, working in partnership with SWISCo, is extremely proud to be the first local authority in the country to undertake an i-Tree ecosystem survey, not once, but twice!

Thankfully, the council officers preceding my time here had the wisdom and foresight to realise the importance of valuing our tree stock and being able to place a numerical figure on their value to society, as well as identifying those trees that are most important to Torbay. This provides a great foundation for us to pursue policy changes and ensure the tree asset in Torbay is properly managed.

Before we move onto the current survey (to be covered in future blogs) a brief dip into the history of the first i-Tree study, to provide some context.

In 2011, Torbay was the first local authority to use i-Tree to map its tree assets. Not just those owned by Torbay Council, but also those trees in private ownership and on third-party land. A partnership was formed between Torbay Council, Treeconomics (i-Tree specialists) and Hi-Line (arboricultural contractors who undertook the fieldwork). The survey consisted of 250 randomly selected plots throughout Torbay and it was not just the trees that were surveyed, but the underlying ground e.g. hard or soft surfacing, use of area (footpath, car park, field, woodland, etc.).

The survey work undertaken throughout the summer allowed for accurate data collection, including helping to identify species. Thankfully, one of our consultants was able to identify the majority of the shrubs (not always an easy task)!

The data collected was sent to Forest Research, who would ‘run the numbers’ and provide data for the report.

Well, the results that came back were quite interesting…

Leyland Cypress was the most common tree in Torbay. However, the most important tree was identified as the Ash. This has now become a very real concern for Torbay, with the anticipated loss of a significant amount of its Ash trees through Ash Dieback (a highly destructive disease of Ash trees).

Some headline results from the first survey are as follows:
Number of trees – 818,000
Tree cover – 11.8%
Most common species – Leyland cypress, Ash and Sycamore
Pollution removal – 50 tonnes per year
Carbon Storage – 98,100 metric tonnes
Carbon sequestration – 3320 metric tonnes per year

These figures from the first study will allow us to make a direct comparison to the new dataset we will receive once we have finished the second. They will give us a better understanding of the trees in Torbay and where we can improve.

Back to the modern day!

SWISCo and Torbay Council, in partnership with Treeconomics, Hi-Line and the Tree Warden scheme (led by The Tree Council), are starting the re-survey of the same plots as those originally used back in 2011. With the advent of the Tree Warden scheme and the commitment shown by a number of tree wardens to undertake some of the survey and data capture work, we were looking at carrying out the surveying during September and potentially into October, before sending the data back to Treeconomics and Forest Research for processing.

The benefit of reviewing the same plots is that there will be a level of consistency in the collection of the information, and we will be able to understand any changes within our tree stock that have taken place over the past ten years.

This will help us to plan our tree planting at a strategic level. It will also help to drive policy, in terms of how we manage our tree stock in the urban environment, and will highlight the proven benefits of the trees in our towns and cities.

For further information on the Torbay i-Tree project, visit: https://www.treeconomics.co.uk/projects/revisiting-torbays-urban-forest