Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dale Miller

Second Advisor

J. Terrence McCabe

Third Advisor

Peter Newton


This study investigates how canopy cover differs across land use types in six study areas in the City of Boulder, Colorado. Canopy cover can affect the area by buffering extreme weather and reducing heat island impact. Hypotheses state: 1) urban land use areas will have lower canopy cover and higher impermeable surfaces than other land uses; 2) nearby neighborhoods will have similar tree cover; 3) study areas that have high canopy cover receive disproportionately high benefits from increases in canopy cover; 4) all six study areas would benefit from large increases to canopy coverage. In this assessment six GIS surveys, two case studies, and growth projections were employed to understand canopy conditions, impacts of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), and achievability of expanding Boulder’s urban canopy. It is found that highly urbanized areas have less canopy cover and higher impermeable surface cover neighborhoods (which feature high canopy cover, above 28%, and lower impermeable surface cover, below 42%). It is noted that case study neighborhoods are statistically similar to one another in tree densities, prevalence of ash trees, and the presence of EAB infested ash trees. Growth scenario projections (2%, 4%, and 10% increases in canopy cover) found that minimal canopy increases (2%) in suburban neighborhoods, and high-canopy increases (6%) in highly urbanized areas offered similar returns on investment, though achievability was limited. Recommendations to decrease impermeable surface cover in all study areas through green roof initiatives, as well as planting new trees in and maintaining current canopies are discussed.