Tool shows where cities need trees most
Urban tree mapping has become a popular thing and for good reason. Studies have shown that not only does living near trees make our bodies healthier thanks to cleaning the air around us, but they also make us happier and less stressed. They also cut down on the heat island effect and provide needed shade for kids and older people. These are all things that city leaders would want for their residents.
A new urban tree mapping tool called Trees and Health App, developed by researchers at Portland State University and funded by the U.S. Forest Service, not only maps the distribution of tree coverage around cities, but lets city planners (and anyone else for that matter) dive deeper into the data to see which neighborhoods on a micro level need trees most to best plan tree planting projects.
The map includes filters for air quality data gathered from sensors around the cities so areas with higher traffic-related pollution can be served. Other filters include seeing areas with higher percentages of people over age 65 or under 18 who are more sensitive to heat, areas where the heat island effect is stronger and areas where higher numbers of people are living in poverty since poorer neighborhoods tend to have fewer trees than wealthier neighborhoods.
"We created an online platform that says where are the dirtiest, hottest, and most vulnerable people in each of these cities. Cities can then evaluate where they might plant trees spatially at a neighborhood level," said Vivek Shandas, one of the academics behind the maps, to FastCoExist.
The tool lets users see maps of 13 U.S. cities according to the different criteria, as well as lets them go into a prioritize tab where each of those criteria can be set from low to high priority to identify the most vulnerable neighborhoods.
Once a neighborhood is selected, city planners can then go into a planning tab to see exactly how many trees are needed to create a certain percentage of canopy cover, with tree size also being a choice.
Hopefully with the roll-out of these tree mapping tools, in the future we'll no longer need apps to direct us to the most tree-lined path, but we'll find them along our walks no matter which direction we go.