MIT’s Treepedia Measures Urban Tree Canopy

April 24, 2017
Boston's Urban Tree Canopy
Courtesy MIT Senseable City LabBoston’s urban tree canopy measures 18.2 percent on MIT’s Treepedia Green View Index.

How do the Northeast’s tree-lined streets stack up against the rest of the globe? In the ongoing Treepedia project, researchers at MIT’s Senseable City Laboratory are using Google Street View to plot urban centers on a Green View Index (GVI), scoring the percent of a city covered by canopy.

Why? In urban environments, trees affect everything from temperature modulation to air pollution. “Our data can help [public officials] understand better where to intervene,” says Carlo Ratti, Treepedia’s director.

GVI scores have been calculated for 17 cities so far, including New York City (13.5 percent) and Boston (18.2 percent), which both rank near the bottom of the index. Singapore (29.3), Sydney (25.9), and Vancouver (25.9) top the list.

While researchers will continue to study new cities, they’re also broadening the project’s scope. “The next phase should allow residents and municipalities to annotate and ‘follow’ trees in their communities,” Ratti says. “In the long term, think about this almost like a social network connecting people and trees.”


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Marc Chalufour

Marc Chalufour, a former senior editor of AMC Outdoors, contributes to the trail-running blog Running Wild.