Displaying all posts with the OpenTreeMap tag.

CITY OF TREES Film Tells the Story of Greening Efforts in DC

Washington Parks & People Executive Director Steve Coleman speaks with residents of Ward 8 in Oxon Run Park, Washington, DC in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Washington Parks & People Executive Director Steve Coleman speaks with residents of Ward 8 in DC’s Run Park in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Editor’s Note: We believe storytelling is a powerful tool for sharing the importance of maintaining, protecting and growing our urban forests. At OpenTreeMap, we’ve seen firsthand how storytelling can be used to recruit volunteers, garner support and secure funding. In addition to helping you manage your trees and green infrastructure, maps can help you tell your organization’s story. This month we wanted to share with you how one new documentary film is also working to share the story of urban trees and the people that plant and care for them. The following post is written by Lance Kramer of Meridian Hill Pictures. 

As documentary storytellers, we use film to share underrepresented perspectives, build empathy for people different from ourselves, and facilitate conversations about the complexities of the human experience. Our latest film CITY OF TREES is a story that challenges audiences to think deeply about the triumphs and struggles in making a long-term social impact within an environmental nonprofit.

CITY OF TREES follows the stories of trainees and staff in a stimulus-funded green job-training program, Washington Parks & People’s DC Green Corps, designed to put unemployed people back to work by planting and caring for trees in underserved communities in Washington, DC. The film follows its central participants navigating difficult issues: attempting to make change within a low-income urban community; fighting institutional poverty with short-term, non-renewable grant resources; creating environmental justice where it has been absent for decades.

In the process, CITY OF TREES thrusts viewers into the inspiring but messy world of job training and the struggles change makers face in urban communities everyday.

DC Green Corps trainee Michael Samuels and his mother Eleanor Barnett share the story of Michael's incarceration in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

DC Green Corps trainee Michael Samuels and his mother Eleanor Barnett share the story of Michael’s incarceration in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Over the course of the five years we spent making CITY OF TREES, telling this kind of story required all parties — us as the filmmakers, the program staff and trainees, funders, and audiences — to embrace a certain unpredictability and complexity. Because our story centered on real people, we had to accept that any message about the impact of tree plantings or green job training would never be as tightly-crafted as a grant report or fundraising video. The goal of the film was not to solve unemployment or lack of canopy coverage in certain neighborhoods, but instead to explore the complexities that emerge when people with different backgrounds and perspectives work towards a common goal.

Stories that deepen public consciousness and promote productive discourse are increasingly important as cities become bigger and more diverse.

With nearly 50 screenings of CITY OF TREES at film festivals, conferences, nonprofits, universities, and public agencies last year, we saw how the film helped audiences develop a deeper understanding of the issues and possible solutions, and strengthen relationships with other stakeholders. At screenings we found that people have craved stories that seek deeper truths and raise hard questions.

Steve Coleman introduces a new cohort of DC Green Corps trainees in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Steve Coleman introduces a new cohort of DC Green Corps trainees in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

We hope that when people watch City of Trees they’re able to draw connections to experiences in their own lives and step into the shoes of someone who is different from themselves. We also hope that the courage displayed by the people who shared their stories in CITY OF TREES — particularly the staff and trainees of Washington Parks & People — will help make it easier for others in urban forestry and environmental justice fields to think about the potential to use authentic storytelling in their own work. To help with this effort, we recently released the CITY OF TREES discussion guide which was made with support from the U.S. Forest Service. The guide is designed to help nonprofits facilitate dialogues around the film’s central themes: environmental justice, workforce development, community engagement and returning citizens.

It is more important than ever for people from all backgrounds to come together to confront some of our country’s most pressing issues. We hope through watching the film people can better understand the complex factors facing urban communities and engage in conversations that lead to positive change.

DC Green Corps community liaison James Magruder conducts outreach in DC's Oxon Run Park in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

DC Green Corps community liaison James Magruder conducts outreach in DC’s Oxon Run Park in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Click here to find out how you can host a screening of CITY OF TREES. The film will also have its encore broadcast on PBS/WORLD Channel‘s America ReFramed on Tuesday, Jan. 17 in a lineup of films focused on the fights for income equality and racial justice.

For more information on accessing the discussion guide and Community Screening Kit, you can contact Lisa Allen at lisa@meridianhillpictures.comLance Kramer is the producer of CITY OF TREES and Executive Director of Meredian Hill Pictures.

Using Existing Data to Analyze and Plan your Urban Forest

Trees line a city street.

A new tool from OpenTreeMap allows communities to use existing sociodemographic and land-use data to make more informed planting decisions and estimate the future ecosystem benefits of those trees over a 30-year period.

Cities, non-profit organizations and other land-managing institutions face competing priorities when it comes to managing the urban forest. Many organizations want to incorporate data on urban heat island effect, air quality and population density into their planting decisions, but do not have the GIS expertise or data required to do so. With OpenTreeMap’s new modeling and prioritization tools, you can generate heat maps of optimal planting locations that are customized based on your selection criteria, and experiment with digitally planting trees of various species and sizes to model the growth and mortality rates of those trees.

We have included two data sets from the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) on tree canopy and impervious surface as well as additional data on population density, economics, and housing. In order to make the tool accessible to the widest audience, we only used data that is available in the continental U.S., does not have usage restrictions and has a level of geographic accuracy that makes it helpful in making planting decisions.

A screenshot of OpenTreeMap's prioritization tool.

OpenTreeMap allows you to prioritize your planting criterion by selecting custom weights. Shown here is a map created to identify optimal planting sites in Milwaukee based on population density, median household income and percent tree canopy coverage.

Your planting priorities may be dictated by other factors not yet included in the tool, which is why we can upload additional overlays to the map for you. For example, we can upload additional overlays with data on local zoning laws, soil quality, transit information, and funding restrictions. We can also upload higher resolution canopy and impervious surface data should it be available for your city or region.

We will incorporate additional information on health, water, temperature, wildfires and air pollution as it becomes available across the continental U.S. Unfortunately, much of the existing health data, including results from a recent study by the Nature Conservancy on the cooling and filtering effects of trees, is not geographically accurate enough to inform local planting decisions. That is to say data at the citywide or even zip code-level is not specific enough to help inform planting decisions at the neighborhood or street-level.

A screenshot demonstrating OpenTreeMap's modeling tool.

A sample tree-planting and the resulting ecosystem benefits projected over a 30-year period. We provide pre-set mortality rates based on tree species and size, that can be customization in the application.

A sample tree-planting and the resulting ecosystem benefits projected over a 30-year period. We provide pre-set mortality rates based on tree species and size, that can be customization in the application.

Once you’ve identified the optimal planting locations, you can model the outcome of your trees over time. Understanding tree growth and mortality rates can help inform management and allows you to demonstrate the long-term environmental and economic benefits of your tree plantings over a 30-year period.

We are in the final testing stages before making these tools available on the OpenTreeMap platform. Initially, the tool will only be available within the continental U.S., however, we plan to incorporate additional customization options including the ability to upload datasets to support groups outside the U.S.

In addition to OpenTreeMap, there are two other tools you use to help you prioritize plantings: iTree Landscape and the Trees and Health application. The U.S. Forest Service’s iTree Landscape helps you identify specific planting locations using land cover and census demographics, and explore existing canopy and ecosystem benefits. The Trees and Health application organized by Portland State University and the U.S. Forest Service includes data on neighborhood vulnerability as it relates to air quality in fourteen U.S. cities. You can use the application to identify planting locations that impact tree canopy and public health.

For additional information on the new forestry modeling and prioritization tools, we invite you to watch our recent webinar. The slides from this presentation can be found here.

Want to get in touch? We’d love to hear your questions and feedback: opentreemap@azavea.com.

How to Geocode Address-Based Tree Inventory Data

TreePeople's OpenTreeMap.

Mapping your trees is the first step to making more informed urban forestry management decisions. Displayed here is a map of trees across Los Angeles County.

Tree inventory data helps municipalities create urban forest management plans, allocate funding and proactively manage trees to ensure their long-term health. Most tree inventory and mapping software platforms require data to be geocoded, yet many municipalities and nonprofit organizations only track the postal addresses of their trees.

In this post, we will outline how you can geocode your address-based tree data without an expensive geographic information system (GIS) or technical expertise. Geocoding refers to the process of assigning longitude and latitude information to addresses so they can be placed as points on a map.

Why geocode your address-based tree data?

Having address data on your trees is important in order to find the general tree location. We plug addresses, not coordinates, into our GPS in order to find a place. However, geocoded data is important for identifying trees once you’re at a specific location. In both urban and rural settings it is common to find multiple trees of the same species at one address, which can make it difficult to locate a specific tree without additional identifying information.

Not only do maps make it easier to locate a tree in the field, they also help us identify actionable insights and make more informed management decisions. Unlike a spreadsheet of tree data, a map of your trees can help you track the spread of pests and disease, visualize how mature trees are dispersed across your city and identify which areas have the highest tree mortality rates. Additionally, the more people involved in maintaining street trees, the more helpful maps are in coordinating volunteers and municipal employees, and updating key information.

After you go through the process of geocoding your address data, all trees listed at the same address will have identical longitude and latitude. You will need to update this data either in the field or using satellite data as a reference to reflect the exact location of a tree at a particular address.

How does geocoding work?

Most simply, geocoding is performed using a reference layer. The process involves matching the to-be-geocoded addresses from your spreadsheet to the street names and address ranges in a street network file. The system matches the street name in your spreadsheet to a reference table and map. Once the street name is matched, all address ranges for this street are examined to identify the specific segment of a street where the address is found. Since the geocoder knows the coordinates of the endpoints of each street as well as the range of street numbers for a given segment, the software can estimate the address coordinates. Most geocoding services place trees at the front and center of the parcel with the associated address. However, some more advanced services allow you to choose how far off the center point of the adjacent road you want to place a given point.

Once you have geocoded tree data you can upload your data to mapping platforms like Carto, QGIS or OpenTreeMap. Carto and QGIS are not industry-specific; however, OpenTreeMap was designed specifically for mapping urban trees and green infrastructure.

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Texas A&M offers free geocoding services for up to 2,500 addresses.

Using Texas A&M’s Geocoding Service

We’ll walk through the steps for using Texas A&M’s geocoder, which allows you to geocode 2,500 records for free. There are numerous other services available, however, many require technical expertise and/or software licenses. Texas A&M’s geocoder allows you to upload a database (access file) or text file (csv, tsv) of address data to their website and generate latitude and longitude values. The system can geocode thousands of records in minutes.

Geocoding Instructions

  1. Create an free account with Texas A&M GeoServices.
  2. Navigate to the Batch Geocoding page of their website. Click “Start – Step 1>>.”
  3. Click “Add New Database.”
  4. Click “Upload New Database.”
  5. Choose the file from your computer and designate the type and click Upload. For this example, we used a comma separated values (.csv) file. Make sure to follow the file naming notes listed on their website and include column names in the first row of your spreadsheet or database.
  6. Once you validate that the geocoder can open and read your file, choose the columns from your file that want to process. The required fields (“Address”, “City”, “State”, and “Zip”) must be present in your database or file even if these fields are blank. The system will not process records without these fields present.
  7. Use the dropdown lists to identify the fields in your table that correspond to the input fields the geocoder expects to see. Make sure to only select each of your fields in a maximum of one dropdown.
  8. Choose your processing options and Click “Start Process.” Rather than wait to view your results you can opt-in to receiving status notifications via email. You will receive an email with a link to download your geocoded data once the process is complete.
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A spreadsheet highlighting the four columns created after the geocoding process was complete for Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

In the spreadsheet above, we have highlighted the four columns added after the geocoding was completed. You can reference Texas A&M’s website for additional technical details on how the longitude and latitude results were generated and explanation of the values for the “MatchType” column. 

We took the newly geocoded data and uploaded it to the three aforementioned mapping platforms: Carto, QGIS and OpenTreeMap.

We mapped Rehoboth's recently geocoding trees using QGIS, a free and open-source desktop geographic information system (GIS) application.

First we mapped Rehoboth Beach’s trees using QGIS, a free and open-source desktop geographic information system (GIS) application.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 2.06.01 PM

Second, we mapped Rehoboth Beach’s trees in Carto, a cloud computing platform that provides GIS and web mapping tools for display in a web browser.

Rehoboth Beach trees plotted on OpenTreeMap.

Lastly, we plotted Rehoboth’s trees in OpenTreeMap, a cloud-based software for mapping and managing trees and green infrastructure.

The less accurate information you have on tree location, the higher the chance the wrong maintenance task is performed on the wrong tree. At best, this results in the misallocation of finite resources and at worst potentially removing an otherwise healthy tree. With geocoded inventory data you are on your way to making more informed management decisions that ensure you are allocating resources as efficiently as possible.

While it is much easier and less expensive to build a map with existing data that requires some modifications than reshoot your entire inventory using a GPS device, moving forward we recommend you use a mobile mapping application or portable GPS device so that you can capture detailed location information at the time of planting, and don’t have to rely on a third party to maintain your database. We also recommend checking and adjusting tree locations as part of routine fieldwork. 

Run into snags following our geocoding instructions? Want to learn more about different mapping options? Drop us a line at opentreemap@azavea.com. We’d love to hear from you.

Practical Methods for Reducing Urban Tree Mortality

2015_06_22_Street Foliage copy

Tree-lined streets like this one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania cannot be created overnight. Trees must be monitored closely to ensure their long-term survival.

We recently hosted a webinar on practical methods for increasing the annual survival rates of young trees, a topic that is critical to ensuring the longterm growth of our urban forests. Urban forests provide environmental, health, economic benefits that motivate tree-planting programs. However, realizing these ecosystem benefits depends on tree survival. Overall canopy levels in major cities have been declining, and tree planting and regeneration do not offset current losses.

Small, young trees typically have highest mortality rates. However, accurate mortality data is hard to come by and the data that does exist suggests over a quarter of trees planted die within first 5 to 9 years.[1]  The lack of available information on mortality rates and causes demonstrates the need for standardized tree monitoring protocol. Collecting and analyzing longitudinal tree data will take years, but to assist in data collection efforts the Urban Tree Growth and Longevity Working Group developed a minimum data set necessary for any urban tree monitoring project. This data set includes field crew information, tree species, location, site type, mortality status, condition rating, and diameter at breast height (DBH).

Technology can be used to support effective, long-term monitoring of urban trees and assist with tree planting and maintenance data processes. Azavea prepared a report titled “Data Management for Urban Tree Monitoring” for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and the USDA Forest Service on the requirements for ideal software monitoring system. The report is the culmination of over twenty interviews with researchers, practitioners from organizations throughout the US (federal agencies, academic researchers, municipal and nonprofit employees, volunteers, students). Included in the report are in-depth analyses of the software offerings currently on the market and whether they meet the features requirements that allow for successful monitoring.

Data-driven decisions can help you maximize limited resources and advocate for additional funding. Watch the video for more detail on the minimum data set and using technology to ensure the health of your urban forest.

Effective monitoring is not the only solution to increasing the mortality rates of young trees. TreePans, a family-run business based in Iowa, has designed a product that protect trees from mechanical damage and allows for more efficient watering. In the video below, Ben Brown of TreePans discusses the core functionality of the protect, how the implementation of TreePans at one university helped reduce mortality rates, and the importance of providing workers and community members alike with the requisite knowledge and resources for helping care for young trees.

Click here to sign up for future webinars, urban forestry news and product updates.

Building the Best Technology for the Longterm Monitoring of Urban Trees

A tree-lined street in Philadelphia's Fairmount neighborhood.

A tree-lined street in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood.

Trees in urban settings play a vital role in our communities. Whether newly planted or decades old, urban trees provide crucial environmental, economic, community, and aesthetic benefits. A healthy urban forest can assist with stormwater mitigation efforts, shade buildings to save energy, beautify neighborhoods, increase property values, positively impact human health, and encourage community members to spend time outdoors.

A new report prepared by Azavea for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the USDA Forest Service Philadelphia Field Station explores how technology can be used to support the long-term systematic monitoring of urban trees; assist with tree planting and maintenance data processes; and enable data to be organized and shared between researchers and practitioners. Growing a vibrant urban forest requires maintenance, stewardship, and the regular planting of new trees.

Planting campaigns by governmental, non-profit, and community groups have resulted in millions of young trees added to cities throughout the U.S. in recent years. While many of these new trees are catalogued and counted as part of the planting initiative, less data is available about urban trees as they grow and die.

Information about stewardship activities such as pruning, watering, and planting site improvements is also seldom tracked consistently after trees are planted, despite research demonstrating that such activities may directly impact the health and growth of the tree. Long-term monitoring data related to urban tree health, growth and mortality rates, and longevity is useful to urban forestry professionals, scientists, and local community groups for four key purposes:

  • Gathering tree growth, mortality, and health data for planting programs as a means to evaluate performance, inform program management, and adapt practices over time
  • Coordinating community stewardship activities to encourage tree health and survival
  • Understanding how urban forests change through time in terms of population dynamics, including growth, mortality, and species diversity
  • Generating empirical data for use in accurately projecting urban tree populations and the related future estimated ecosystem services in order to demonstrate the value of planting campaigns toward environmental targets and goals

As part of long-term monitoring, it is essential to track longitudinal data about the same individual trees and planting sites. However, that process can be time-intensive, require extensive staffing resources, and result in large amounts of data that may be difficult to organize and quickly access or search. To increase the amount of available empirical data, it’s crucial to explore how to use technology to accurately gather tree data over time using field crews with varying levels of experience and then manage that data in a way that enables sharing information between groups. Through interviews with researchers and forestry practitioners, the authors built a list of the system requirements for an ideal software monitoring system, and evaluated 11 of the existing software platforms including OpenTreeMap.

The OpenTreeMap iOS and Android applications are designed to allow for easy data collection and query in the field.

The OpenTreeMap iOS and Android applications are designed to allow for easy data collection and query in the field.

While developing software that meets data collection and management needs is a critical first step, caring for urban trees is a collaborative task. As non-profit groups, municipal foresters, researchers, student interns, citizen scientists, and others work together to grow and maintain our urban forests, technology can be a valuable tool to assist in gathering data, coordinating management and planting activities, and demonstrating the economic and ecological value of trees. The report advocates for continued innovation in urban forestry data monitoring and technology development to support collaboration among between the many individuals in involved in tracking tree health, growth, and longevity.

Improving the process of long-term tree monitoring is essential for creating high-quality data that can inform adaptive management decisions, guide future planting initiatives, and assist with research on understanding how urban forests change through time. By providing opportunities to share that data more widely, organizations can learn from other programs and work together to build stronger urban forests. We’re excited to be part of the ongoing conversation on how software can assist with long-term tree monitoring, and welcome your feedback and experiences using the tools available.

Parts of this post were republished with permission from the report, Data Management for Urban Tree Monitoring – Software Requirements.

“Trees in Trouble” highlights what we can do to mitigate the effects of EAB

An arborist removing ash trees in Madison Park, Cincinnati.

An arborist removing ash trees in Madison Park, Cincinnati.

In the past few years more than 12,000 dead Ash trees have been cut down in Cincinnati on publicly-owned land. According to documentary filmmaker Andrea Torrice, Cincinnati almost went broke trying to keep the invasion from damaging property and endangering citizens. In describing the infestation, she said, “It seemed to happen overnight.” Unfortunately, Cincinnati is not unique. Since emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive Asian beetle, was first identified in 2002, communities all across the country have reported signs of EAB and face losing huge portions of their tree canopy. In total, it’s estimated EAB will kill between 50 to 100 million ash trees in the US and Canada.

A tree-lined street in Toledo, Ohio in 2006 before EAB arrived.

A tree-lined street in Toledo, Ohio in 2006 before EAB arrived.

The same tree-lined street in Toledo in 2008 after EAB had arrived.

The same tree-lined street in Toledo in 2008 after EAB had arrived.

The risk of emerald ash borer, however, is not just limited to canopy loss. The effects ripple through the ecosystem affecting other plants, animals and water supplies. Emerald ash borers eat tree bark and cut off access to the nutrients and water a tree needs to survive, and can kill an ash tree in as little as two years. Efforts aimed at reducing the spread of invasive species like EAB have proved costly for businesses that sell ash trees or wood products, property owners, and local and state governments alike.

We sat down with award-winning documentary filmmaker, Andrea Torrice to discuss her most recent film, Trees in Trouble. The film, which is set in Cincinnati, tells the story of America’s urban and community forests: their history, their importance to our health, economy and environment, and the threats they face today. Like many citizens, Torrice was not familiar with the spread of EAB and its impact on her neighborhood until she began to notice swaths of dead trees spray-painted for removal. Upon gaining a deeper understanding of the issue, she felt compelled to create a film that brought the issue to national attention. Torrice weaves together urban forestry history, public policy and science with personal stories to create a film designed to appeal to people of all ages.

Andrea Torrice, Producer and Director of "Trees in Trouble."

Andrea Torrice, Producer and Director of “Trees in Trouble.”

In addition to raising key questions about the challenges our forests face amidst climate change and the spread of invasive species, Trees in Trouble serves to educate citizens on the social, economic, environmental and health benefits trees provide. Throughout our conversation, Torrice was quick to highlight solutions communities can take to protect native trees such as increased monitoring and public awareness, all in an attempt to offer hope for the future. Torrice said, “Education about and awareness of EAB is a necessary first step in order to get citizens involved in the long-term preservation of our urban forests.” She encourages citizens to advocate for updated tree ordinances and to let their public officials know they support funding for the care and maintenance of our urban forests. At the same time, she acknowledges that local government cannot solve the problem alone.

Pleasant Ridge School in Cincinnati hosted a tree planted event in celebration of Arbor Day.

Pleasant Ridge School in Cincinnati hosted a tree planted event in celebration of Arbor Day.

In Cincinnati, for instance, a mandate requires the city to remove all infested ash trees on public land. The cost and scale of this removal project means the city can only afford to replant one tree for every three lost. Stories like this are not limited to Cincinnati, which is why Torrice believes the most successful initiatives to mitigate the effects of EAB are those that bring together multiple stakeholders.

The Taking Root initiative, which brought together 220 diverse organizations and partners across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, was started in response to the spread of EAB. The goal of the campaign is to address the current historic loss of our region’s tree canopy by planting trees, better managing local forests, promoting the benefits of healthy trees, and fostering a sense of stewardship among individuals and communities.

Citizens and scientists in Cincinnati learning about invasive pests.

Citizens and scientists in Cincinnati learning about invasive pests.

Ultimately, better management of our urban forests starts with a clear understanding of the trees in your inventory. Information on tree condition and biodiversity as well as ecosystem benefit calculations provide actionable insights for municipalities on where to focus finite resources, and can help local governments advocate for budget increases. Our urban canopy is a testament to the foresight and commitment of past generations, and without proper attention to the long-term care of trees we risk leaving future generations with substantially fewer trees.

Click here to see when Trees in Trouble is airing in your area.

Transplanting Large Caliper Trees in Goderich, Ontario

The original article was written by Michael Ormston-Holloway BSc, MScP, GDHort, MLA, ASLA, CNLA, ISA Certified Arborist of The Planning Partnership (TPP) for Cabbagetown ReLeafMichael is a Partner at The Planning Partnership (TPP) and works in both landscape and urban ecology. In addition to his work at TPP, he lectures at the University of Toronto in the Daniel’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, the University of Waterloo in the School of Planning division of the Faculty of Environment, the University of Guelph, and OCAD University.

Mature trees provide ecosystem benefits that help reduce pollution, lower energy costs, increase property values and reduce stormwater runoff. Moving large trees can be a good strategy for building momentum around an urban forestry project and for preserving large trees that would otherwise be removed due to development. Unlike mature trees, young specimens take years to reach a size that would provide equivalent ecosystem benefits to those of a large canopy tree.

Moving a large beech tree (1850)

Moving a large beech tree (1850)

People have been moving large trees since the 1850s, if not earlier, in fact, there is evidence of the ancient Egyptians transplanting large trees almost 4000 years ago. More likely than not, the Egyptians discovered that to transplant a tree, the size of a tree’s root ball must correspond to the caliper of the tree. Larger trees require a larger root ball in order to transplant. With that said, the physiological changes that affect a tree during transplant are similar regardless of the size or age of the tree.

Moving a tree (1930)

Moving a tree (1930)

A tree that has been planted for three or more years has roots that extend well beyond the drip line of the tree. Generally, 60 to 75 percent of an established tree’s root biomass is outside the drip line, meaning that a fully grown tree has roots branching out in diameter equal to two to three times its height.

During transplant, roots are often purposely trimmed back to lateral roots.  In response to this pruning, the tree produces more roots and root hairs, increasing the total size of the root ball. Thus, the process of root pruning helps increase the integrity and volume of the root ball, and helps the tree better acclimate to new surroundings, however, root pruning is more widely used on smaller trees. Since roots provide water, minerals and physical support for a tree, problems can arise when the root system of a tree, particularly a large tree, is improperly cut during prior to transplant.

AmericanHort (formerly the American Nursery and Landscape Association) set standards for root ball moving. In general, needled evergreens require a minimum of eight inches of root ball for each inch of trunk caliper and deciduous trees require nine inches of root ball per inch of caliper. After determining the root ball diameter, digging, balling and burlapping by hand help ensure the root ball remains intact.

Hand burlapping and balling large trees in preparation for tranplant in Goderich, Ontario.

Hand burlapping and balling large trees in preparation for transplant in Goderich, Ontario.

The Planning Partnership (TPP) is a leading expert in large-tree transplanting methods and has worked with various tree contractors throughout Southern Ontario to move trees 60 ft in height and greater. They worked with the Town of Goderich to redesign and replant their town square park following the F3 (on the Fugita scale) tornado that hit in August, 2011. Goderich, located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, is home to fewer than 10,000 residents. The 2011 tornado was the strongest tornado Ontario had seen in more than 15 years with wind speeds at 280 kmh (174 mph). While the tornado only lasted 12 seconds, buildings were leveled and trees uprooted or split, leaving the town with $130 million in damages. It’s estimated the town lost more than 90 percent of it’s total tree canopy.

Transplanting a large Metasequoia in Goderich.

Transplanting a large Metasequoia in Goderich.

Following the tornado, the town worked with TPP to develop a master plan to combat lost tree canopy on public land. As part of their redesign of the central square, TPP transplanted more than 150 (44 small, 93 medium and 20 large) mature trees from around the region. The transformation of the town center following the tornado included the planting of 60′ tall trees with 30′ canopies. In addition to donations from the community, the trees came with an unusually long warranty, which was critical to the Town’s ability to afford mature trees. The successful transplant of the trees was just the first step to ensuring they thrived in their new home. The Town was committed to helping the trees adapt to the new environment through consistent fertilizing and soil treatment.

Did you recently transplant a tree in your town or city? We’d love to hear about it. Send us your story at opentreemap@azavea.com.

Additional resources on transplanting trees:

American Standard for Nursery Stock

Colorado Master Gardener Notes on Tree Planting

Clemson Cooperative Extension: Transplanting Established Trees & Shrubs

Community Engagement in Action: A conversation with Greening of Detroit

We recently caught up with the Greening of Detroit to learn how they successfully plant, map and care for thousands of trees each year. In their early days of operation, the Greening planted five to ten trees per event. Over the past two decades, these small planting events have turned into a well-organized operation involving thousands of volunteers, many more thousands of trees and a team of dedicated staff. There are many facets to the Greening’s success, but we wanted to share our five key takeaways.

A strong municipal partnership

The Greening has developed a successful partnership with Detroit’s Forestry Department giving the organization the requisite permits and some financial assistance to fulfill their mission. When they were founded in 1989, the City of Detroit was losing hundreds of thousands of trees to Dutch elm disease, urban expansion and attrition. At the same time, budget cuts forced the city to allocate most of their urban forestry budget towards the removal of hazardous trees. With little money leftover for plantings, they turned to the support of local organizations.

What started as an informal agreement was formalized five years ago when the Greening secured a blanket permit to plant trees along the public right of way. Since then, they’ve been working closely with the City to identify and plant approved species in areas most affected by removal. By engaging volunteers, the Greening can avoid the high labor costs associated with planting and caring for trees to multiply the impact of their investment in urban forestry.

Attention to the details of the volunteer experience

From its inception, the Greening has been committed to providing folks from all walks of life a meaningful volunteer experience. Over the years, they’ve developed relationships with groups – from large corporations to Girl Scout troops – who all share a commitment to giving back to the community.  They take a systematic approach to communicating key information in advance and scheduling the volunteering event to maximize productivity so a lot of the work is done behind the scenes before the day even begins.

Source: The Greening of Detroit

Source: The Greening of Detroit

A commitment to stewardship

The organization is committed to the long-term health of the trees they plant. To reduce tree mortality, the Greening of Detroit cares for trees for the first three years following planting. During the summer, they employ high school students into their youth workforce development program, Green Corps, to water tens of thousand of trees, and maintain city parks and greenways. The 1,600 students that have been involved in the program since inception have also participated in workshops sponsored by the organization on topics like financial literacy, conflict resolution and resume writing.

Source: The Greening of Detroit.

Green Corps getting ready for a day tending to more than 12,000 trees planting by the organization. Source: The Greening of Detroit

Engagement at the local level

Through their Community Planting program, the Greening engages block clubs, schools, faith based and other non-profit organizations in planting events. OpenTreeMap makes it easy for the Greening to showcase the ecosystem benefits a community will garner after a planting event.  An interested group, in conjunction with Greening, works with other local organizations to garner support for plantings among residents. They solicit guidance from residents insofar as where to plant the trees and residents serve as volunteers for the event itself. Following the planting event, the community takes on the responsibility for watering, weeding and mulching the tree for at least three years.

A commitment to data collection

By collecting data on all aspects of their programming, the Greening can improve the volunteer experience and measure their impact. After an event, each volunteer completes a survey, which helps Greening understand which events had the highest satisfaction rates and why. With this information, they can estimate the number of volunteers needed based on trees being planted and better cater the event to the group of volunteers. Additionally, the Greening requires their growers tag trees with genus and species information, making it easier for volunteers to accurately map trees in the field using OpenTreeMap’s mobile application.

The Greening of Detroit has mapped over 15,000 trees on their OpenTreeMap.

The Greening of Detroit has mapped over 15,000 trees on their OpenTreeMap.

The Greening of Detroit didn’t always map their trees. For years, they used a database to track the addresses of plantings. A few years back, the Greening was looking for ways to better engage the community in their planting efforts and to educate citizens on the ecosystem benefits of trees. After researching different mapping solutions, they decided on OpenTreeMap. It was the only platform they found designed specifically for community engagement, and it’s intuitive user interface made training volunteers easy.  They geocoded their address-based inventory and used OpenTreeMap’s bulk uploader tool to add past tree plantings to their map. The Greening of Detroit has over 15,000 trees which equate to more than $85,000 in ecosystem benefits on their map.  

Think we missed a key component of a successful volunteer program? Interested in starting your own OpenTreeMap? We’d love to hear from you!

Uncovering the actionable insights in your tree inventory

We’re excited to see more organizations and municipalities across the country incorporate tree inventories into their urban forest strategic plans. To get the most out of the data you collect in the field, we recommend first identifying your inventory goals. Are you trying to calculate the impact of a program’s ecosystem benefits for grant reporting? Want to track maintenance activities and estimate maintenance costs? Looking to better understand your inventory’s biodiversity to protect against widespread pests and disease? All are important reasons to complete a tree inventory, and will determine what data you collect and in what format.

In many ways, once the tree inventory is completed the work to increase canopy coverage, perform routine maintenance, plant trees in empty planting sites and remove dead trees has just begun. We’ve outlined some easy search queries you can perform to identify the actionable insights hidden within your tree inventory data.

Dale Carlon inventorying trees in the field.

Dale Carlon inventorying trees in the field.

Take Dale Carlon, an OpenTreeMap client and consulting arborist in Reno, Nevada. Dale and his team at Dale Carlon Consulting, Inc. provide clients with comprehensive tree inventories that help them identify hazard trees, allocate resources, maintain key infrastructure and keep residents safe. Dale creates an OpenTreeMap for each homeowners association (HOA) he inventories so his clients can easily update information, budget resources and track maintenance activities.

A map of one of Dale Carlon’s inventories. The map allows property managers to easily identify trees of interest, estimate maintenance costs and plan maintenance activities.

With our new advanced search filter, Dale can search by any custom field he has created. In seconds, he can drill down to the 183 trees – of the nearly 7,000 trees at the HOA depicted above – that are dead or dying and require removal or the 208 trees that have between ¾ and 1 ½ inches in sidewalk damage. With this information, Dale can estimate the costs of required maintenance for his clients and the property manager can require all maintenance work to be logged in the field using OpenTreeMap’s mobile applications. This way, the HOA’s inventory stays up to date and maintenance is tracked and stored on the same place as all other tree information. Technicians see their location on the map, can easily identify the tree of interest and upload photos to create a pictorial timeline of maintenance completed.

Tree People LA uses custom fields to track and report on specific tree planting initiatives.

Tree People LA uses custom fields to track and report on specific tree planting initiatives.

Many of our nonprofit clients must report to funders on ecosystem services, trees planted and volunteer engagement. By creating a custom field for a specific planting program, a non-profit organization like TreePeople LA can quickly identify the 18 plants mapped so far as part of their City Plants program. These 18 trees alone bring over $700 in total annual benefits.

At OpenTreeMap, we will work with you to refine your data collection methodology so you can easily identify and analyze key information of interest. Planning an inventory this Spring? Let us know how we can help. Already have existing geo-coded inventory data? Send it over and we can upload it into OpenTreeMap and bring your tree inventory to life.

After Five Years We Completely Changed Our Pricing—Here’s Why.

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Earlier this year, we launched a new “modular pricing” model—the change is significant for several reasons, and it’s worth explaining the observations that led us to totally revamp the way we sell OpenTreeMap. This new direction represents our strong commitment to making OpenTreeMap accessible and affordable for the folks who need it most.

Most Software as a Service (SaaS) companies like OpenTreeMap sell “plans” in monthly or yearly installments. At various points in our history we had between 3-5 plans—each successively more expensive plan came with more capacity for trees and more features. With our most popular plan, customers could upload up to 50,000 trees and could access premium features like our iOS and Android Mobile apps. For many companies, this pricing structure works. It is easy to understand and simple to implement. But at OpenTreeMap, we saw a fundamental problem: urban forestry initiatives can’t simply be boiled down to the number of trees in any given inventory. Every city, non-profit, university and consulting arborist has a different set of priorities and needs. Our pricing model could not accommodate the breadth of applications that our customers found for the software.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 9.03.41 AMTake, for instance, The Greening of Detroit. With a dedicated corps of interns and volunteers, they inventoried nearly 15,000 trees using OpenTreeMap’s mobile apps over the last year alone. The Greening of Detroit continues to be one of the most active and fast-growing tree maps in the country. With our former pricing plan, they had to pay for thousands of additional trees that they had not even mapped. Now, they only pay for the number of trees they need. They’ve been able to reallocate money formerly spent on unused tree capacity to get our Customization module. This way they can customize stewardship activities, user roles, and the mobile app configuration. Now they pay less than they used to and are able to get features previously only available to people with hundreds of thousands of trees.

It’s our sincere hope that the new pricing model will make OpenTreeMap attainable for those groups that have never had access to premium software for collecting, managing, and showcasing urban forest data. It is these groups that benefit most from OpenTreeMap. Small cities with 10,000 street trees and a dedicated group of volunteers now don’t have to pay $40,000 for a basic inventory—they can engage volunteers willing to collect the data instead. And non-profits with hundreds or thousands of trees planted each year can easily report on those plantings to donors and conduct survivability studies with just a few summer interns.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 9.07.48 AMWe’re proud to help clients like Augusta University, who can now afford to use OpenTreeMap to manage an inventory of several thousand trees without breaking their budget and Sustainable JC, who plotted their first several hundred trees in a single weekend. If you aren’t using software to better track and understand what’s happening to your trees, there has never been a better time to try OpenTreeMap. Get started with a 30 day free trial today: www.opentreemap.org/pricing/.

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