Citizen Science That Speaks for the Trees

This article from The Nature Conservancy talks about i-Tree and the value its collection of tools can provide to users. 

Published: Nov. 18, 2015

By Lisa Feldkamp

“I always loved stories like the Lorax and the Giving Tree,” says Bill Toomey, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Forest Health. “I grew up in New England’s forests, always exposed to trees and small patches of woods.”

Whether through a forest, a tree on a nearby city street, or in the pages of a book, trees are the first way that many people encounter and come to care about nature.

As the Giving Tree so poignantly illustrates, trees also provide people with a multitude of services from cleaning air and water to products made from wood and many things in between.

They give us so many benefits that it can be hard to quantify, which is just what cities need to do when they make decisions about urban forests. That’s where i-Tree, a suite of software tools from the USDA Forest Service, comes in.

What Is i-Tree?

i-Tree is a Swiss army-knife collection of tools that people can use to measure the impact individual trees and forests.

In fact, the collection of tools is so comprehensive it can seem overwhelming. But don’t be daunted. Here’s the information you need to get started.

For citizen scientists, i-Tree Streets and i-Tree Pest Detection are two key instruments in the i-Tree arsenal. (Many of the other tools are designed primarily for city officials and forest managers.)

For each tree that you select to inventory, i-Tree Streets can estimate the tree’s effect on greenhouse gasses, air quality, and stormwater overflow. Find a group in your area that is conducting a tree inventory with i-Tree Streets. City governments and conservation organizations can collect the data for use at the local level.

To expand your impact, include i-Tree Pest Detection in your monitoring plan. The tool provides a protocol for recognizing invasive forest pests. There are plans to build a national database for forest managers to track anomalies and trends in forest pest sightings.

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