San Francisco – an Urban Forest Map

It’s ambitious: a database listing every tree in San Francisco.

There’s a new wiki in town: An Urban Forest Map that relies on crowd-sourced information, rather like Wikipedia. The project is live now (in beta), and anyone can play.

The software will allow all the different organizations that track San Francisco’s trees to share information. According to an article on KQED’s website, developer Amber Blieg says 17 different entities in the city manage and track trees, but had no easy way to share information.

The software will also allow citizen scientists to add trees to the database. There’s even a software to help identify tree species: The Urban Tree Key.

CAL FIRE funded the project, and Blieg developed it in co-operation with Friends of the Urban Forest, and the City of San Francisco.

If they can pull this off, it will yield information about tree species, sizes, and allow users of the database to derive information about tree-cover, risk from pest infestations, and climate change effects. Trees help cities by mitigating urban heat islands, reducing and purifying storm water run-off, as well as providing habitat for birds, animals, and insects. And making the urban landscape lovelier and raising property values.

There are good reports on the project on the KQED website, (“An Earth Day Natural: San Francisco’s Tree Census ); in the Science section of the major online magazine, Wired, (“The Plan to Map Every Tree in San Francisco“); and on the Environment News Service (Earth Day 2010 San Francisco: Mapping the Trees).

The San Francisco Chronicle, which apparently dislikes the mayor as well as trees, distinguished itself with a rather silly report that managed to give the impression that it was a City project with citizens being dragged in to substitute for government employees. It starts with, “No, it’s not your imagination. Everyone has gone a little census crazy these days… Yup. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced today the city had launched a tree census…

Wonder if the Chron has heard of Wikipedia or Yelp… or has any idea about crowd-sourcing information.

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