Published: Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Oxford City Council is developing an Urban Forest Strategy to maximise the benefits trees have on the local environment and communities

This will play a part in helping the city achieve net zero carbon by 2040.

In the next few months, the council will launch a public consultation about the strategy.

Anyone who lives or works in Oxford will be able to have their say on the proposals to develop the city’s urban forest to help tackle climate change and the ecological emergency, build flood resilience, promote sustainability and increase health and wellbeing for people and nature.

The creation of a holistic strategy for the city’s trees was the main recommendation of a comprehensive report on the structure and value of Oxford’s urban forest.

Urban forest survey

Published earlier this year, the study was undertaken in partnership with social enterprise group, Treeconomics.

To gather the evidence required, a survey of 200 randomly allocated plots was undertaken by teams of trained volunteers and professionals across Oxford. Plots were located on public and private property across the city.

Detailed tree measurements were recorded, including the species, height, diameter of the trunk and canopy spread.

In addition, the location of the trees - including information on land use and ground cover - were collected to build a picture of the structure and composition of Oxford’s urban forest.

Field data amassed during the survey was inputted into iTreeEco, a specialist software application. Data from iTreeEco surveys is used globally to help develop policy and set priorities for trees and greenspaces.

Oxford’s existing trees

Oxford’s urban forest contains an estimated 248,233 trees which benefit over 154,600 people. That’s nearly two trees per person, double the ratio for London.

In addition these trees:

  • Cover an area equivalent to 725ha (the same as 725 football fields of trees) with a leaf area of 31km².
  • Intercept around 255 thousand cubic metres of rain water every year, equivalent to an estimated £81,000 in avoided stormwater treatment costs.
  • Filter an estimated 65 tonnes of airborne pollutants each year, worth more than £1.12 million in social damage costs.
  • Remove an estimated 2,500 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere each year, estimated to be worth £619,000.
  • Store an impressive 76,400 tonnes of carbon worth £18.8 million.

However, the report also showed that the city needs to keep investing in the development and replenishment of its urban forest to help mitigate against climate change, protect and enhance biodiversity, combat tree disease and provide cleaner, greener outdoor spaces for all.


“The recently published iTreeECO study of Oxford’s urban forest demonstrates how vital this resource is to us.

“Oxford has an abundance of trees and green spaces which provide places where people can relax, play, enjoy nature and take part in recreation or sport. They also add to people’s satisfaction with their local area and help to bring communities together. During the pandemic this has never been more important. But there’s no room for complacency.

“Oxford’s carbon emissions amount to nearly 10 times the total carbon storage of Oxford’s urban forest so we need to do more. The report recommends that we need to develop a strategy, for the whole city, to guide actions that will help us to maximise the benefits from our urban forest through preservation, plating and policy.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford

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