In order to know how to best care for and plan for urban forests and public trees, you need to know what you have. An inventory and/or a canopy assessment is an essential component of having an effective and sustainable tree program, and can inform the development of a reasonable plan for your community's trees.
A tree inventory is the process of counting, characterizing, and recording information about the trees that make up an urban and community forest. While highly customizable based on community goals and capacity, an inventory may collect information related to:
- Total number of trees
- Condition and health indicators
- Location (including accessibility)
- Size class diversity (diameter)
- Species composition
- Maintenance needs
- Potential tree planting locations
Get Started With Your Tree Inventory
Inventories can be completed relatively quickly or be very detailed, depending on the needs, goals, and capacity of your community. There are two main types of inventories:
- Public Tree Inventory: A detailed, systematic inventory of public shade trees (trees within the public right-of-way and on municipal land) within a specified area or along high use roads or densely settled neighborhoods.
- Roadside Tree Assessment: A “windshield survey” of back roads to identify hazardous trees and forest health issues, such as presence of the emerald ash borer (EAB). The roadside inventory can be an inexpensive, quick, and effective procedure whereby a cursory visual inspection and count can be made by trained volunteers or municipal staff from a vehicle.
Tree Canopy Assessment
In addition to a tree-by-tree inventory, a tree canopy assessment can analyze tree canopy from above, providing valuable information to help communities set tree cover goals, and to identify areas to conserve and enhance.
General resources on tree inventory and assessment:
- i-Tree is a peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service that provides urban forestry analysis and benefits assessment tools.
- Urban Tree Canopy Assessment guidance for decision makers to understand their urban forest resources, particularly the amount of tree canopy that currently exists and the amount that could exist.
- Urban Forest Assessments Resource Guide contains links to online tools related to canopy assessments and support in determining what type of urban forest assessment or planning process would be appropriate for your community.