Mapping our park trees
Our city-maintained trees are among Santa Fe’s most precious resources. The Santa Fe Public Spaces Tree Inventory Project, currently in its third year, gathers pertinent information about the types and conditions of our trees. The project has evolved from hand-written data collection to include digital location capture through the use of a mobile-phone GPS app.
By viewing natural-resource data on a map, we can observe both spatial distributions of these resources and temporal changes that may be occurring. Seeing all this allows us to consider various factors at play in the maintenance of the trees in what is an increasingly challenging envi- ronment for them.
The project organizes dates when volunteers and arborists meet at a designated park in order to gather tree-identification data, such as genus and species, common name, the diameter at breast height, and crown condition. With the addition of tree location data, we open up a new world of possibility for better resource management of our city trees.
Early in 2017, we spoke with the City of Santa Fe’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department about capturing and storing this information within their GIS. They were enthusiastic about the prospect of merging our tree data with city-maintained data, including satellite imagery, water resources, streets, and city park boundaries.
This month we have a follow-up meeting with the department to work on permanent storage of our findings as a feature class in their GIS mapping facility. Inclusion in the GIS would allow us to determine, for example, the number or percentage of Siberian elms located in a particular park or in all the city parks. We could determine which types of trees do best without water resources such as irrigation or natural drainage patterns. If we overlay soil distribution, we may find different types of trees do better in differ- ent types of soils. Over time we may find where pest infestation is moving or where mature trees are dying out and need to be replaced.
As we move forward, we are talking to both the city and the state about a possible grant to purchase tablets that would facilitate the digital capture of data and location. Presently we are still hand-writing the tree information, typing it into a spreadsheet, and merging that with the location data. This information gets converted to a format acceptable to the GIS and then transferred to the city. We completed five parks in 2017 and hope to have all the parks captured over a five-year period, at which time we will start over with the rotation in order to maintain information for each tree every five years.
Before moving to Santa Fe, Becky Touchett worked as a GIS analyst and as a geologist. In addition to being a Master Gardener, she volunteers with the Historic Santa Fe Foundation.
An example of the type of data-capture displayed on a public map viewer