When Dave Nowak of the U.S. Forest Service and Scott Maco of Davey Tree Expert Company began collaborating on the creation of a suite of urban forest analysis tools called i-Tree, they imagined that users would be mostly city foresters from the United States.
Inspired by users from 105 countries, the latest version, 5.0, is upgraded to rapidly assess urban trees and forests throughout Canada and Australia, two of the countries leading the free software’s international expansion. One of the major updates is the addition of a new web form that allows the use of smartphones and tablets.
“It’s neat to see how this program has grown,” Nowak said. “We didn’t expect this kind of response, but the i-Tree partnership has done an outstanding job in reaching potential users.”
City foresters certainly number among i-Tree users, but teachers, researchers, non-government organizations, consultants and homeowners are also finding that the ability to calculate benefits such as energy savings and storm water interception is essential to urban natural resources management and stewardship.
“Planting a tree to shade your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to save energy and help the environment,” says Greg McPherson, a Forest Service research forester.
An entirely new function within i-Tree forecasts the growth and benefits of trees through time, based on species and location-specific growth models.
i-Tree includes many options including the ability to survey historical Google images and the ability to use i-Tree to assess the human health impacts of air pollution removal by trees.
The Pest Detection module provides a portable, accessible, and standardized method to observe a tree for possible insect or disease problems. Its use will increase and broaden efforts to detect exotic pests and diseases in urban trees worldwide.
Thousands of copies of i-Tree have been downloaded across the world and today international users make up its fastest growing segment.
The innovative i-Tree was developed, supported and distributed through a group of partners including the Forest Service, Davey Tree Expert Company, National Arbor Day Foundation, Society of Municipal Arborists, International Society of Arboriculture, and Casey Trees.
In honor of National Ag Day, USDA agencies are sharing blogs highlighting the importance of innovation and research to food and agriculture.