i-Tree provides assessment tools for urban and rural forestry analysis

03.23.2018 |
Harald Vacik's picture

Urban trees perform a number of ecosystem services including air pollution removal, carbon sequestration, cooling air temperatures and providing aesthetic beauty to the urban landscape. Trees remove air pollution by intercepting particulate matter on plant surfaces and absorbing gaseous pollutants through the leaf stomata. In the latest IUFRO Spotlight the approach of the USDA Forest Service is introduced to build a healthier city with the i-Tree software suite.


i-Tree is a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the Forest Service of the USDA that provides urban and rural forestry analysis and benefits assessment tools. The i-Tree tools can help strengthen forest management and advocacy efforts by quantifying forest structure and the environmental benefits that trees provide. Since the initial release of the i-Tree tools in August 2006, thousands of communities, non-profit organizations, consultants, volunteers and students around the world have used i-Tree to report on individual trees, parcels, neighborhoods, cities, and entire states. By understanding the local, tangible ecosystem services that trees provide, i-Tree users can link forest management activities with environmental quality and community livability.

Cities have to assess their current forest distribution and conditions. With that information and knowledge of tree effects on air pollution, specific management plans could be developed to maximize tree impacts on human health. Policy makers will recognize that trees and forests within cities affect air quality and can be used to further improve that air quality. Investing in improving city forests and their management can yield improvements in human health and wellbeing and save money in the long run.

The i-Tree suite includes the following forest analysis tools and utility programs:

i-Tree Eco provides a broad picture of the entire urban or rural forest. It is designed to use field data from complete inventories or randomly located plots throughout a community or study area, along with local hourly air pollution and meteorological data to quantify forest structure, environmental effects, and values.

i-Tree Landscape is an online tool that allows you to explore geospatial data for an area of interest. It makes use of datasets, such as land cover and U.S. Census data, to provide local information, tree benefits, and planting prioritization by designated management boundaries.

i-Tree Hydro is an application designed to simulate the effects of changes in tree and other land cover characteristics within a watershed on stream flow and water quality. Qualitative scenario modeling in non-watershed areas (county, city, or parcel scale) is also available.

i-Tree Design is a simple online tool that provides a platform for assessments of individual or multiple trees at the parcel level. This tool links to Google Maps and allows you to see how tree selection, tree size, and placement around your home affects energy use and other benefits.

i-Tree Canopy offers a quick and easy way to produce a statistically valid estimate of land cover types (e.g., tree cover) using aerial images available in Google Maps. The latest version of Canopy also estimates values for air pollution reduction and capturing atmospheric carbon. Canopy can be used by urban forest managers to estimate tree canopy cover, set canopy goals and monitor canopy change over time. Canopy can also be used to estimate inputs for use in i-Tree Hydro and elsewhere where land cover data are needed.

i-Tree Species is a web application designed to help urban foresters select the most appropriate tree species based on environmental function and geographic area.

i-Tree MyTree is a quick and easy mobile tool allowing you to explore the benefits provided by the trees near you.

i-Tree Database is an online system designed for international users outside of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia to submit properly formatted international pollution and weather data, location information, new species information, and other requirements needed for the i-Tree Eco model to process in a new, previously unsupported study area. The submitted information will be vetted by the US Forest Service and integrated into the Eco model as a new international location that would be available for automated processing in future updates of Eco.

i-Tree Streets focuses on the benefits provided by a municipality's street trees. It makes use of a sample or complete inventory to quantify and put a dollar value on the street trees' annual environmental and aesthetic benefits. Streets also describes urban forest structure and management needs to help managers plan for the future.

i-Tree Vue allows you to make use of the freely available National Land Cover Database (NLCD) satellite-based imagery to assess your community's land cover, including tree canopy, and some of the ecosystem services provided by your current urban forest. The effects of planting scenarios on future benefits can also be modeled.

A recent publication can be found at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1618866717302182