Press Coverage

Urban Greening

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-6- Technology&more technology&more -6- Technology&more N atural resource management in cities is a tough gig. Managers have to plan for the health and longevity of their city's green infrastructure, while Mother Nature constantly and unpredictably threatens the city's natural resources. With climate change producing ever more environmental challenges and stressors on cities' infrastructures, smart strategies for natural resource management have never been more critical for building resilient cities. Fortunately, managers in most cities have access to an untapped resource: trees. Proven multi-taskers, trees have nearly 350 million years of experience to bring to the task of strengthening urban foundations. Indeed, maintaining or increasing a city's urban tree canopy (UTC) can provide myriad benefits such as improving air quality; absorbing carbon dioxide; lowering the heat island effect; and reducing storm water runoff. Over the past decade, many U.S. cities with visionary leaders who recognize the economic, environmental, and emotional benefits of trees, have launched ambitious tree-planting initiatives designed to make green the new gray. Including the UTC as a strategic part of a natural resource plan is key; but to do so, city leaders and managers must first know the location and condition of their green infrastructure. Trimble's eCognition® software integrates geospatial imagery and GIS datasets and analyzes the data to produce land-cover classifications of specific object types such as trees or buildings. These detailed assessments can enable cities to answer the "how much tree Urban Greening Improving city life by planting trees canopy do we have" question—core information needed to effectively design smart environmental programs. Managing Tree Canopy in Boulder One city that recently asked that same "how much" question is Boulder, Colorado, a city that knows a thing or two about being resilient. In April 2016, the city released a Resilience Strategy, which, in part, sets out an ambitious climate commitment plan to reduce its carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. Both maintaining its existing tree canopy and strategically increasing it are two ways to help it achieve its goal. According to the city, Boulder's urban forest provides nearly $5.2 million in annual environmental, economic and social services benefits to the community, including air quality improve-ments, energy savings and stormwater runoff reduction. However, its urban tree canopy is also under threat from climate change impacts and the onset of diseases and exotic pests. Of particular concern are Boulder's ash trees, which make up 20 percent of its urban forest, and are the prime target of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) beetle. The city estimates that 40 percent of Boulder's ash trees will be infested with EAB in 2016 and, if left untreated, 100 percent will be infested with EAB in 2020. Given these factors and the need to develop a more robust set of urban forest management tools, Boulder partnered with Trimble and DigitalGlobe to determine a baseline UTC—the first step to advancing their tree-canopy development and management strategies. This mature oak tree is one of 2.6 million trees across Pittsburgh, an urban forest valued at 1.1 billion dollars. Photo credit: Joey Kennedy.

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