Hi-Tech Tree Map Helps City, Residents Preserve Greenery

San Francisco has a new tool for mapping its trees.

Last week, the government of San Francisco launched a new public resource that will help the city and its residents keep better track of local vegetation. The Urban Forest Mapping Project, a database of aerial photography, color illustrations, and detailed information on each tree (including location, species, and parasites) allows anyone to access and update the status of the area’s 140,000 public trees, according to Wired News.

Local governments in urban areas often struggle with overseeing and maintaining city trees, relying on volunteers with paper maps and surveys to monitor the vegetation and investing in time-consuming data entry. San Francisco’s new system allows for immediate updates from handheld computing devices and laptops. Although the program’s upfront cost could exceed $10,000, its efficiency will result in annual savings of some $41,000, according to Amber Bieg of Friends of the Urban Forest.

The initiative could also translate into savings for city residents, Wired News reports. For example, by using the STRATUM (Street Tree Resource Analysis Tool for Urban Forest Managers) program in conjunction with the Urban Forest Mapping Project, homeowners can learn which types of trees will raise their property values and which species fare better in different districts. The program can “get a dollar value out of every tree,” Bieg says.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.