Interactive GIS System Improves Urban Forest Management

Man using GIS-based urban forest management tool in forest

Dudek’s geographic information system (GIS)-based Tree Resource Information Management (TRIM) is a web-based interactive mapping tool and database with a simple-to-use interface to view, query, track and manage urban forest assets more efficiently and accurately.

TRIM is a one-stop information source for GIS-based urban forest management for areas ranging in size from a few hundred trees to tens of thousands of trees. It is built on the industry-standard ESRI ArcGIS technology and integrates software developed by Dudek and includes customized iPad apps for field data collection and viewing.

Tree managers, contractors, or staff can use TRIM to query and display tree information and forest asset maps. By clicking on a mapped asset — such as a tree, planting spaces, irrigation components, or sub-areas — users access a database to call up tree attributes, work history, species diversity, total tree benefit value, and other urban forestry planning information.

Each asset can be linked to additional media, such as photographs and videos, and related documents, such as PDF as-built drawings, tree planting specifications, and condition assessment notes.

Querying the databases is simple. If a forest manager wishes to review a list of all trees of a certain species or over a certain trunk diameter, a simple query creates a table of trees with these attributes and where they are located. TRIM can visually highlight the trees on the map. Query results are exportable to Microsoft Excel and new databases can easily be added.

When Trim’s iPad application is used for field data collection, data is sent directly to the GIS database for real-time updating and viewing of information.

“TRIM cost-effectively integrates on-line resources like GIS and iPad so urban forest managers can more easily manage, query and highlight information about their assets,” said Michael Huff, Dudek’s urban forestry practice manager. “Managers get greater insights into their urban forest assets with TRIM and can manage those assets more efficiently on both a project basis and a long-term strategic basis.”

The mapping system can be comprised of as many individual “layers” as desired, such as attributes describing trees, planting spaces, and irrigation components, as well as topography, and satellite imagery. Users can turn layers on and off as needed to focus on the task at hand. As with the databases, additional layers can be added as needed. The application can also generate PDFs of the whole map or various parts of it.

Mark McGinnis, Dudek’s GIS services manager, said TRIM provides the following advantages:

  • Streamlined workflow that allows real-time updating of GIS data for tree maintenance needs and completed work, hardscape damage, pest issues, species diversity, appraised tree values and realized monetary tree benefits.
  • Centralized master data for more efficient access to information. Often, information about urban forests can be scattered in numerous folders and on different desktops within an organization.
  • Centralized views enabling all staff members to see the same authoritative data. This eliminates duplicate files and outdated information that often happens with paper maps and drawings. Field and office staff have access to the same data at the same time for improved coordination.
  • Real-time information updates of visual information (spatial and tabular) as it is modified in the database that can be viewed with any web browser. For field data collection, iPads can be programmed with drop-down menus customized to specific field data collection tasks. Collected information is sent directly to the GIS database and can be viewed in real-time in TRIM.

For more information on GIS-based urban forest management, Michael Huff, RCA.