Collecting & Managing Spatial Data for Urban Forest Management

GaTech - Eco Rainfall Interception ArcGIS and its suite of components including ArcMap and ArcCatalog are used extensively by municipalities, corporations, universities, non-profits, and consultants to support urban forest management activities.  The advent of ArcGIS Online and the Collector app for smart devices has opened up new opportunities for data collection (including crowdsourcing), updating, and sharing.  To take advantage of these latest capabilities, urban foresters who use ArcGIS should consider developing expertise in file geodatabases and domains.

The file geodatabase (FGDB) provides a widely available, simple, and scalable geodatabase solution for all users; it can scale up to handle very large datasets and still provide excellent performance. Its efficient data structure is optimized for performance and storage and uses about one-third the feature geometry storage required by shapefiles and personal geodatabases. File geodatabases also allow users to compress vector data to a read-only format that further reduces storage requirements.  File geodatabases are stored as a folder of files.  FGDBs support the use of domains.

Georgia Tech’s Center for Geographic Information Systems has developed urban forestry data model (FGDB) that supports the USDA Forest Service i-Tree Eco ecosystem services model, their unique Campus tree inventory requirements, and tree database management within an industry standard file geodatabase system.  This FGDB can be customized to add additional attributes needed for local implementation and urban forest management needs and styles.  The data model project includes the necessary scripts and tools to export tree inventory data to i-Tree Eco and import the calculated ecosystem services from Eco into the campus database management system.  The GaTech GIS data model for i-Tree Eco inventories can be downloaded from Urban Forestry South.

A domain is a declaration of acceptable attribute values used in ArcGIS feature classes and geodatabase tables.  Whenever a domain is associated with an attribute field, only the values within that domain are valid for the field.  Using domains helps ensure data integrity by limiting the choice of values for a particular field.

Domains make GIS editing tasks faster and more accurate ensuring integrity of your database and reliability of all products derived from that data.  Domains also “transfer” to ArcGIS Online (AGOL) providing field data collection (through ESRI Collector) with the same benefits as desktop operations.

Attribute domains can be shared easily across feature classes and tables within a file geodatabase (FGDB).  And domains can be shared between geodatabases using ArcToolbox components, by merely sharing the FGDB tables from within ArcCatalog, and by copying feature classes with domains assigned.

Urban Forestry South has recently completed a draft version of a FGDB that illustrates urban forestry feature classes and the use of domains with the objective to support ArcGIS Online data collection and editing.  You can download these resources from Urban Forestry South.

Stanford Study Measures the Health Benefits of Nature Walks

bridgeA growing body of evidence supports the idea that spending time in nature has positive impacts on human physical and mental health. As a result, scientists are beginning to conduct research that addresses the more specific questions of just exactly how nature is beneficial and they are providing quantifiable results.

In a recent study by Stanford, researchers were able to pinpoint a neural response that resulted from time spent in nature. Study participants walked in either a high-traffic urban setting or in a natural area for 90 minutes. Participants that walked in natural areas showed a decrease in activity in the region of the brain associated with a key factor causing depression. This suggests that making time for nature outings might be helpful in addressing a range of mental health disorders, particularly for those living in city settings.

To read the full article click here.  

An Audit Framework for Urban Forest Sustainability and Management

The Urban Forest Sustainability & Management Audit System is designed to provide a framework for comprehensively evaluating urban forest management programs.

The primary objectives of the audit are to:

  • engage the full spectrum of the organizations’ management team: executive, financial, resource, and outreach,Chapel garden many colors
  • provide program direction that increases the level of professionalism in urban forest management,
  • conduct a gap analysis of management practices and the health of green assets
  • increase the health of the green assets managed by the program, and…
  • optimize this management for identified ecosystem services (i.e. reach an acceptable benefit:cost ratio).

This audit system (the checklist and the process) can be used for municipal or county urban forest management programs, or to evaluate college or corporate campus management programs.  The system is particularly suited for the independent evaluation of participants in Arbor Day Foundation programs like Tree Campus USA®, Tree City USA® or Tree Line USA®.

The checklist and spreadsheet tool were developed in cooperation with Agnes Scott College Office of Sustainability and the ASC Arboretum Advisory Committee.  Agnes Scott College is located in Decatur, Georgia.