Trees on the Heath rival rainforests when it comes to capturing carbon

Hampstead Heath. Picture: Ken Mears

Hampstead Heath. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Some woodland areas of Camden - notably including on Hampstead Heath - trap almost as much carbon as tropical rainforests.

That’s according to a new study conducted by a research group at UCL.

The team, from UCL’s geography department, used state-of-the-art technology to map every tree in the borough, and found both that there are far more trees than previously thought, and that the trees here hold far more carbon than you would expect.

Dr Mat Disney told the Ham&High: “We have developed a new way of estimating the amount of carbon held in the trees and we thought rather than go somewhere hard to get to like a tropical rainforest, we’d apply it in Camden.

“We were also interested to work with the local council. There are some lovely pockets of woodland all over London, but especially in Camden.”

The researchers used air LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data collected by the UK Environment Agency, combined with ground-based LiDAR measurements.

They measured some urban trees which stored 178 tonnes per hectare, which is only just shy of the average amount stored by a rainforest - which is 180 to 200 tonnes per hectare.

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Mat explained: “We wanted to expand our understanding of how trees capture carbon, and to also more accurately map the trees that are in the area.

“We’ve found that trees in urban areas grow differently, in places like Hampstead Heath the trees tend to be younger, but because they’re not so tightly packed, they grow out more, and this means they’re able to absorb more CO2 than we imagined.”

Mat explained that the study only confirms how important it is to properly manage the trees in urban green spaces. Although the Heath and Highgate Wood are two of the more prominent examples - he added that privately owned trees and those in graveyards can be equally important.

“We found that there are about 85,000 trees in Camden, and previous estimates were as low as 50 or 60,000, and that’s partly because by combining the LiDAR data we could get a much clearer picture. All of these trees are important to the environment.”