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

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