Some methods of tree
inventory are as follows:
• Proprietary Software & Consultants
There are computer programs designed specifically for tree inventory
data collection. These can be very valuable tools in creating detailed
management plans. Usually, consultants who work for the producers
of these programs come out and collect the data then customize your
tree management plan to suit your needs and capabilities. The management
options allow tracking calls, maintenance and updating at a minimum.
These programs are available with or without GIS (Geographic Information
System) and GPS (Global Positioning System) technologies. However,
mapping specific tree locations is not very useful for most communities
unless a GIS is already in place (with data for surrounding streets,
utilities, etc.). The main exception to this is the mapping of parks
and large landscapes (such as colleges and other large facilities).
Be cautious when selecting a consultant. Check references as program
ease-of-use and good technical support/service are a major consideration
towards price. Most companies will provide technical support for
a specified period of time with periodic updates to the software.
When requesting a price quote for data collection, a community should
have a reasonable projection of the number of miles to cover and
average number of trees per mile to estimate inventory cost. A summary
report of the survey results and their significance should also
be part of any complete inventory.
• Papers and Volunteers
The most inexpensive and simplest method of data collection is to
gather and send volunteers out to record tree information with paper
and pen. The data collected by the volunteers can then be entered
into a spreadsheet. While this method is not conducive to true forest
management, it is a good start for smaller communities with fewer
resources. However, volunteers should not be used for inventory
collected for management purposes.
• PDAs (Personal Data Assistants) & Contractors
PDAs are a quick and efficient way to update on-site tree information.
However, information should be consistently collected by community
or contract employees to protect the integrity of the updated data.
While some expense is required, especially initially, this is still
an overall inexpensive means of collecting data.
So, how much information is needed? There are many factors that
will contribute to the amount of information needed. A full inventory
of all trees on community property can be collected, or an inventory
of only street trees or only non-street trees. The amount of information
collected depends on the needs of the community. Depending on the
size of a community’s budget, programs can be started in which
a) a full inventory is taken, b) only hazard trees are noted, c)
boundary trees are noted, d) line-of-sight tree information is collected
or e) a combination of all of the above or something else altogether.
Whatever your needs, consider managing for liability and safety
as a start in establishing an urban forestry program.