The largest city in the largest continental state in America has an urban forest to match. And now, for the first time, information about Houston’s trees is available online. The My City’s Trees web application is a free tool that makes community tree data easily accessible to the public. The Texas A&M Forest Service has developed a web-based application, My City’s Trees, designed to give the public easy access to information from the urban forest inventories conducted in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program.
With just a few clicks of a mouse, anyone with access to the Internet can explore Houston’s urban forest, the benefits it provides, and the contributions trees make to the environment, economy, and the well-being of the city’s residents. One key benefit measured in the application is the amount of energy-savings that trees produce for the community.
The Texas A&M Forest Service My City’s Trees app is based on data gathered through the Urban Forest Inventory and Analysis program, a partnership between federal and state forestry agencies across the nation. Urban FIA data reveals information about Houston’s urban forest such as tree species, age range, and canopy cover provided by trees. With regular surveys, My City’s Trees will compare that data over time, showing change — including that resulting from urban forest management decisions.
“The fantastic thing about Urban FIA and My City’s Trees is that the data is collected on a repeated basis so it’s not just a single snapshot in time,” said Gretchen Riley, Texas A&M Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program Partnership Coordinator. “Communities will be able to utilize this information to make decisions about the future and to look back and see how those management decisions actually affected the urban forest.”
Houston is the second Texas city, after Austin, to complete an Urban FIA survey and be included in My City’s Trees. San Antonio is on deck to conduct a survey this year, as are several other cities across the nation. Once completed, they also will be included in the web app.
The application is hosted at the Texas Forest Info website. The application allows users to zoom in to specific areas of interest such as their own neighborhoods and generate maps and reports with tables, figures, and explanatory text about their urban forests and the ecosystem services they provide. This information includes:
- Distribution of the forest area, tree population, and land cover classes
- Numbers of trees by species and other attributes
- Urban forest carbon stocks and leaf biomass
- Compensatory values, which are estimates of the value of the forest as a structural asset, meaning a compensation amount for the physical loss of the trees
- Residential energy savings due to tree shading and microclimatic effects of urban trees (currently in development)
- Surface water runoff that was avoided because of urban trees
- Air pollution removed by trees, plus the economic value of avoided human health impacts from pollution removal by trees
Visit My City’s Trees to learn more about the program.
For more information on Urban FIA, contact Tom Brandeis at email@example.com.