Land use | Forestry | Ecotrope

New software calculates many values of trees

Ecotrope | March 10, 2011 7:23 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:40 p.m.

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How much is this downtown Portland tree worth? Tree-value calculating software called i-Tree figures it out, using research on the many ecological, economic and social benefits trees provide.

How much is this downtown Portland tree worth? Tree-value calculating software called i-Tree figures it out, using research on the many ecological, economic and social benefits trees provide.

Remember how I reported on the Pacific Northwest Research Station’s ongoing investigation into the value of urban trees?

Well, that research has now been incorporated into a new version of peer-reviewed software called i-Tree, which pools the U.S. Forest Service’s collective wisdom on urban forestry analysis and benefits assessment.

It includes research from the Pacific Northwest Research Station showing connections between urban trees and healthier babies, lower crime rates and higher property values.

In unveiling the new software, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell noted that urban trees also provide temperature control, clean water, clean air and climate change mitigation by sequestering tons of carbon.

“Urban trees are the hardest working trees in America,” said Tidwell. “Urban trees’ roots are paved over, and they are assaulted by pollution and exhaust, but they keep working for us.”

The freesoftware can help urban planners, forest managers, environmental advocates and students measure the ecological and economic value of the trees in their neighborhoods and cities.

In the past, this kind of software has helped the forest service prove that the societal and ecological value of urban trees more than makes up for the costs of maintaining them. That, in turn, can inform government decision-makers making urban tree policies.

The Forest Service partnered on the software project with The Davey Tree Expert Company, the National Arbor Day Foundation, the Society of Municipal Arborists, the International Society of Arboriculture and Casey Trees.

Gizmag has a writeup on the software, including a list of some noteworthy features:

“In the latest suite i-Tree v3.0 there are five applications; two analysis tools, and three assessment programs:

  • i-Tree Eco uses field data from various trees along with meteorological data and air pollution to quantify the urban forest structure, environmental effects and the value to the local community
  • i-Tree Streets quantifies the economic value of a municipality’s street trees by calculating the environmental and aesthetic benefits
  • i-Tree Species advises urban foresters on the most suitable tree species to plant based on the geographic area and the function it is intended for
  • i-Tree Storm provides an assessment tool for potential storm damage in the area, whilst also providing information on time and money needed to mitigate the damage
  • i-Tree Vue (Beta) uses land cover data maps to assess local land cover, tree canopy and the subsequent services provided to the ecosystem and potential planting scenarios can also be modeled
  • The Forest Service is also working on i-Tree Hydro which is designed to simulate the effects of changes in tree and canopy cover on watershed, stream flow and water quality”

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