OpenTreeMap: Tools for Collaborative Urban Forestry
Air quality and stormwater runoff are two of the primary environmental challenges facing our cities. Creation and maintenance of a healthy urban forest is an important factor reducing water runoff and improving air qualityl The reduction in stormwater runoff and energy consumption facilitated by street trees not only provides quality of life benefits for urban citizens, but financial benefits as well. The City of New York has calculated a $36 million annual financial benefit in stormwater runoff reduction and related water quality improvements through its effective management of more than 500,000 street trees. In addition, the average electricity and natural gas cost savings in New York City facilitated by summer shade and winter windbreak provided by a healthy urban canopy are $47 per street tree, which equates to an annual benefit of $27.8 million. Despite their importance, most cities do not have the resources necessary to inventory and maintain the forest they have an struggle with meeting goals for planting new trees. However, they have passionate citizens and non-profit organizations interested in the maintenance of the urban forest. The research will focus on the feasibility of a prototype tree inventory system that will enable multiple participants from a wide variety of government and non-government groups to collaboratively and efficiently detail and map the urban street tree population for a given municipality. Using the OpenStreetMap project as a model and the City of Philadelphia as our test location, the project team will create OpenTreeMap, a collaborative web-based tree inventory software. The project will address challenges related to data quality, user validation, assignment of roles and trust. The project team will include not only software engineers but also urban forestry experts from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
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