About the tree survey

The aim of our urban tree survey is to collect information about the trees growing in towns and cities across the UK, including what and where they are.

We need your help because we can’t do it without you: there are too many trees for us to survey alone. Your input is especially important because we are particularly interested in the trees growing in private gardens.

The urban tree survey was launched in the spring of 2010 at the start of the cherry blossom season. Thanks to your input we have already gathered information on a significant number of trees. But we still need more. The survey is focusing on the trees we know least about, those in urban gardens.

As a citizen science project the survey is being undertaken in partnership with the public. Anyone and everyone can help, get involved, identify their local trees and put them on the map. We hope you will.

Trees in rural and urban areas

We know a lot about trees growing in rural parts of the UK but much less about the trees in urban areas. One reason for this is that the towns and cities we know today are relatively recent developments, having grown rapidly over the past 100 years.

Scientists know a lot about which species are native to the UK and how our rural woodlands and forests have changed since ice sheets last covered the British Isles 10,000 years ago. Their sources of information range from ancient pollen found in soil and peat, Anglo-Saxon charters and the great Domesday Book survey of 1086, through to modern-day recording schemes.

This survey will record up-to-date information about the UK’s tree population in and how it has changed with the growth of our towns and cities.

How the survey will help

Trees are an essential part of the urban environment, counteracting noise and air pollution. Despite the importance of this urban forest, we have very little information on the trees it contains. Some information is held on street and park trees but most trees in towns and cities are found in private gardens, and information on these is almost entirely absent.

The survey will enable the Natural History Museum and other research organisations to gain a better insight into:

  • the make-up of the UK’s urban forest
  • which urban species are native to the UK and which have been introduced from other countries
  • regional differences in where different types of trees grow
  • how tree populations have changed over time, as a result of urban planning and garden fashions
  • whether introduced species found in gardens are also found in the wild
  • whether the spread of invasive species is linked to their distribution in parks and gardens
  • how changes in the climate might affect what trees grow where, and when they flower and produce fruit
  • the biodiversity of the wildlife living on or supported by trees in urban areas

The information will provide a valuable baseline to measure changes against in the future.

Working together, citizens and professional scientists can do far more to increase our understanding of the natural world and protect it for future generations than either can alone.

2011-2020: United Nations Decade on Biodiversity

The UN Decade on Biodiversity is an opportunity for everyone to contribute to our knowledge of the variety of life on Earth. Taking part in surveys like this will provide information to help us all use and protect the natural world - something that ultimately benefits us all.