Imagine that you waved a wand across your community and pollutants from hundreds of tail pipes and smoke stacks disappeared. Far-fetched, no? But that is what trees do every day, and a new tool could summarize some of the magic trees are performing to improve public health and infrastructure.
i-Tree Landscape translates tree canopy cover (derived from aerial imagery, like you see in Google Maps) into three categories of benefits: air pollutant removal, stormwater reduction and carbon sequestration. Furthermore, the tool helps communities prioritize where trees should be planted in the future. Landscape is part of the U.S. Forest Service’s i-Tree suite of software, a collection of tools built to assess the services trees provide and improve the decision-making capabilities of urban forest managers.
The new release of Landscape incorporates the high-resolution canopy data released by the DNR’s Urban Forestry program in March.
The tool assesses benefits based on the extent of canopy cover across a given area. Canopy cover thus becomes a proxy for leaf cover. Because leaves are responsible for many of the quantifiable benefits of trees, if you approximate the amount of leaf cover, you can approximate benefits. It is not as accurate as if you had field measured every tree (a tall order even for small places), but it’s easy and available to every municipality in the state.
The other main capability of i-Tree Landscape is to prioritize tree planting locations. Based on criteria you set, the program could identify those neighborhoods where trees should be planted. If you wanted to prioritize areas with low canopy and high pollution rates, for example, Landscape could point you to those places where trees would do the most good.
Beyond i-Tree Landscape, tree canopy information can be accessed in the form of a land cover table, interactive map, or raw GIS data. Questions about canopy data can be directed to DNRUrbanForestryAssessment@wisconsin.gov.
Article written by Dan Buckler, Urban Forest Assessment Specialist, DNR