Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (2.0 MB bytes)

Title: Urban tree cover change in Detroit and Atlanta, USA, 1951-2010

Author: Merry, Krista; Siry, Jacek; Bettinger, Pete; Bowker, J.M.;

Date: 2014

Source: Cities

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: We assessed tree cover using random points and polygons distributed within the administrative boundaries of Detroit, MI and Atlanta, GA. Two approaches were tested, a point-based approach using 1000 randomly located sample points, and polygon-based approach using 250 circular areas, 200 m in radius (12.56 ha). In the case of Atlanta, both approaches arrived at similar estimates of tree cover (50–53%) for both time periods, yet they show that roughly one-third of the tree-covered land area in 1951 was also tree-covered in 2010 and about 30–31% of the sampled land area lacked tree cover during both assessment periods. In the case of Detroit, the two approaches resulted in different estimates of tree cover (19.6% vs. 30.8% in 2010), yet similar levels of transitions over time. The only similarities between the two cities were that about 15–20% of each city’s land area was covered with trees in 1951, yet lacked tree cover in 2010. While the polygon-based approach to estimating tree cover may result in a product that more explicitly represents covered areas, the point-based approach is recommended due to the time and effort involved with the polygon-based approach and potential error introduced through topographic displacement of trees and shadows. Overall, canopy cover over time remained stable while distribution varied greatly. However, while multi-decade change in aggregate is undetectable at the scale of a city, there seems to be substantial shifts in the spatial arrangement of the tree canopy.

Keywords: Air photo interpretation, Canopy cover, Urban forestry, Simple random sampling

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Merry, Krista; Siry, Jacek; Bettinger, Pete; Bowker, J.M. 2014. Urban tree cover change in Detroit and Atlanta, USA, 1951-2010. Cities 41(2014):123-131. 9 p.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.