Azavea, a geospatial analysis (GIS) software development company, announces the launch of OpenTreeMap, its collaborative platform for crowdsourced tree inventory, ecosystem services calculations, urban forestry analysis in Edmonton, Canada. Known as yegTreeMap , it is the first implementation of OpenTreeMap Cloud in Canada, and it already includes over 267,000 trees maintained by the City of Edmonton. The launch coincides with Arbor Day in Edmonton, as well as the addition of significant new features to enable the tracking of stewardship activity and the ability to add green stormwater infrastructure features and calculate their ecosystem services benefits.
The City of Edmonton Arbor Day tradition began in the early 1950’s when the City distributed evergreen seedlings to all grade 1 students in Edmonton. The Province of Alberta then stepped up to provide seedlings for every first grade student in the province. As part of today’s Arbor Day celebration, the City of Edmonton’s Forestry division is encouraging the public to use yegTreeMap to share stories about their current and past Arbor Day trees by adding them to yegTreeMap and leaving a comment about the history of the tree. Along with stories, users can include information on tree’s species, diameter and photos. They can also now log tree stewardship activities, such as watering or pruning.
“We’re excited for the opportunity for people to collaborate in enhancing the database of trees planted in Edmonton. Whether individual citizens, like-minded groups, or researchers – this map will allow people to share their knowledge as well as learn about trees in their city. We’re excited to see which species people have planted in their backyards. This information could provide the Forestry Department with suggestions for new species we can trial on public land. One of the largest benefits to yegTreeMap is that the data is open for anyone to access for research and analysis,” says Jeannette Wheeler, Principal of Forestry, City of Edmonton
Urban street trees have proven benefits for communities including providing shade, improving air quality, assisting with stormwater runoff, raising property values, decreasing utility bills, and enhancing the look and feel of communities. While tree inventories ensure that municipalities have data to consult when managing the urban forest, creating a complete inventory is a time-consuming and resource intensive process. OpenTreeMap was launched in 2011 as open source platform for individuals, organizations, and governments to collaboratively build an interactive map of a community’s tree population. However, while the software was free, it was complex to implement. So in 2013 the system was entirely redesigned and re-launched as a cloud platform to enable organizations to create their own OpenTreeMap application without requiring their own technology infrastructure. An increasing number of municipalities have adopted OpenTreeMap as their urban forest inventory, public engagement, and urban ecosystem management platform. yegTreeMap’s stewardship tracking features are now available to all organizations using the OpenTreeMap platform, and a new version of the software is now being released every two weeks, with many new features planned for the coming months.
One of those new features has just been introduced in the Los Angeles version of OpenTreeMap. TreeMapLA is the first OpenTreeMap site to add support for tracking green stormwater infrastructure, such as rain barrels, rain gardens, and turf or concrete reductions. Stormwater management is key challenge for cities through the United States, and green infrastructure is a new way to manage stormwater runoff, reduce flooding and improve water quality. TreePeople, the group behind TreeMapLA, calls these features “watershed solutions”. To add a new watershed solution, users indicate a location for the feature using a polygon tool to outline the roof area that drains into the feature and answer a few questions. With that information OpenTreeMap calculates the water conserved by the watershed solution. While the green infrastructure feature currently is only available for TreeMapLA, Azavea expects to expand to the entire OpenTreeMap Cloud platform in the next few months.
“The beauty of TreeMapLA and the OpenTreeMap platform is that it almost slyly facilitates interactions with trees. Watching people map trees, they are having so much fun, most of them don’t realize that they are contributing valuable scientific information about the urban forest of Los Angeles–and that’s Citizen Science at its best!, “ says Danny Carmichael, Forestry Projects Senior Manager, TreePeople