New Technology Helps Cities Assess Tree Canopy Priorities

New York, NY (October 1, 2013) – Advanced remote sensing technologies called LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) continue to prove an important new tool for cities and planners across the U.S. to assess their urban tree canopy, and develop targeted priorities for effective urban reforestation efforts.

lidar_redLiDAR technology uses light sensors to measure the distance between the sensor and the target object. For an urban tree canopy, this includes all vegetation such as the layers of leaves, branches, and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from the air. LIDAR data is very accurate, high resolution 3D data, and is cost effective for the amount of data generated.

Researchers at the University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Lab and the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station are working with cities to leverage existing terrain data gathered using LiDAR technology to assess tree canopies. This technology is more accurate than that provided by aerial and satellite images in which trees are frequently obscured by building shadows.

Overlaid with census reports, demographics, property records, and other datasets, LiDAR technology allows cities and not-for-profits to prioritize tree-planting efforts and tree maintenance plans, as well as validate budget needs for urban forestry programs.

Cities like New York, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. are using LiDAR data to inform tree-planting initiatives.  For example, Tree Pittsburgh is using the urban tree canopy data to not only prioritize tree-plantings, but to also begin to address larger urban issues, such as economic justice and health issues associated with the urban heat island effect.

Source: Plant By Numbers, The Architect’s Newspaper