Forest Service Releases Updated Tool that puts Ecology in Hands of Public

The U.S. Forest Service today launched the updated version of the increasingly popular, free software i-Tree. This version includes a major new function that simulates future tree population totals, canopy cover, tree diversity and tree values by species based on user information.

i-Tree and its growing suite of tools make it possible for anyone to analyze individual trees, parcels, neighborhoods, cities or an entire state.

“The i-Tree enhancements will provide the public with helpful scientific information about the trees across the U.S.,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “With i-Tree you won’t have to imagine how trees enhance your communities because it will demonstrate their value to all of us.”

The Forest Service worked with private industry, professional associations, non-profit groups, and universities to develop i-Tree, a public-domain suite of forest assessment tools.

Since the initial release in 2006, thousands of communities, nonprofit organizations, managers, consultants, volunteers and students in more than 100 countries have used i-Tree to produce customized reports.

The enhancements provided in i-Tree, Version 6.0, include:

  • i-Tree Landscape: Users can learn about the benefits and values of trees (carbon storage, air pollution removal, hydrologic effects) in their area, see how increasing tree cover will increase the benefits provided, and prioritize areas in which to focus tree planting efforts. The data is preloaded and analyzed from various sources, so the users just need to select an area to begin understanding and valuing their forest resource.
  • i-Tree Eco interface: i-Tree Eco is modernized with a new application interface, updated science and values, an upgraded web-based mobile data collection tool and reporting features, and full functionality for the United Kingdom. These upgrades make it easier for users to assess and understand their local forest resource.
  • i-Tree Forecast: This new function in i-Tree Eco simulates future tree population totals, canopy cover, tree diversity and diameter at breast height distribution. The tool also looks at carbon and air pollution removal services and values by species based on user-input tree data and planting rates, and default or user-defined mortality rates.

“The new ability to prioritize tree planting locations throughout the U.S. is a major step forward for improving human health in our nation,” said David J. Nowak, i-Tree team leader for the Forest Service. “i-Tree has tools to help users select and see the benefits of individual trees. The new Landscape program now lets people compare the benefits of trees, then determine which neighborhoods are the highest priority areas to plant to boost environmental quality and human health.”

i-Tree already includes i-Tree Streets, which focuses on the benefits provided by a municipality’s street trees and puts a dollar value on the street trees’ annual environmental and aesthetic benefits. The program’s i-Tree Design is a simple online tool that provides a way to assess individual or multiple trees at the parcel level. The tool links to Google Maps and allows a homeowner to see how tree selection, size and placement on their property affect energy use and other benefits.

The Forest Service developed a collection of resources to help people to better use the suite of programs. Resources include manuals and workshops, video instructions and archived webinars, and a look at how others have used i-Tree tools.

Article by the U.S. Forest Service.