OpenTreeMap enables individuals, governments, neighborhood organizations, and other groups to collaborate in mapping and exploring the urban forest
Price: from $164/month + additional modules (30 days of trial)
Runs offline: no
Last update: Android 30/11/2016 (v. 1.7.0) – iOS 03/12/2016 (v. 2.6.0)
Website of the developer: Azavea
Notes: article updated on 11/02/2016
OpenTreeMap (OTM) is a collaborative open source tool that works as a Software as a Service (SaaS) to map cities’ trees and which adds an interesting feature: shows the benefits of urban trees or their ecosystem services, detailing the energy conserved, the amount of air purified, etc. It also has additional modules such as one intended to inventory green infrastructures or another that enables you to customize the application.
To test the tool, you must open a free account (you can see the map of public communities on the web home page). Once registered as a user, you can create your own map. As you can see, each plane creates a specific URL that it can share with your collaborators.
Before you start entering data from the web or mobile apps (the map created appears on the home screen of these), it is advisable to access the settings options of the “Manage” tab, where you can change the units, add users, set roles, create custom fields, etc. You can also import data already inventoried and species lists in csv format, and activate the additional modules (Billing and Plan – Plan -Edit (top right)).
Data about urban trees are introduced from the “Add a tree” option, locating first the planting site. These areas may be free of woody vegetation and can be included as areas for future planting activities in planning purposes, or have one or more trees which may be inventoried by entering their physical characteristics (circumference, height, species, photographs, etc.). If you have the module “Green infrastructure” activated, you will see that instead of the “Add a tree” option, it appears a + symbol, allowing you to select the option that interests you.
Commenting that once the trial period ends, the account is suspended, although the entered data are saved for a year if you’re interested to resume the relationship with OTM.
Images: Screenshots 04/04/2016 © Azavea
There are numerous articles and studies that revolve around the importance of forests (as a sample, this infographic developed by FAO about forest resources in 2015). Despite existing nuances in the numbers of the different reports, most of them agree on the socio-economic benefits that forests bring, especially in cities, improving the air quality (in this respect, it should also take into account many aspects) or on the health of the inhabitants. Numerous publications, citing data from WHO, claim that it’s necessary 1 tree for every 3 inhabitants, although it has not been able to verify this information officially.
However, to increase awareness of the inhabitants of urban areas and that they collaborate in the conservation of these forests, is recommended the development of tools that allow to visualize the benefits of urban trees. This aspect is just one of the strengths of OpenTreeMap because its “translation” system allows citizens aware of the improvement that trees represent. However, considering that these calculations are based on the methodology introduced by the U.S. Forest Service through i-Tree Streets software, the developers of the app do not recommend using this system outside the United States, being able to integrate, however, other similar calculation systems. The application is also interesting by the employment of the crowdsourcing, being the own inhabitants who through their mobile phones collaborate in the development of inventories of urban trees, being able to create a community around these resources and becoming an interesting alternative for small municipalities that cannot cope with other alternatives. Regarding the tool, is easy, although it’s convenient to dedicate it a little time, especially in the case of custom fields option, because it has many variables that requiring attention and that at the beginning can slow down a little the use of the app.