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Neighborhood tree survey and online maps shows trees worth millions and best areas to plant them

The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service announced the results of a “Neighborhood Tree Survey Pilot Project” in three New York City neighborhoods, finding that just 322 trees in these communities were worth more than $1 million, and neighborhood trees in these areas removed more than $800,000 worth of pollution annually. The survey was undertaken by several community and research organizations using an innovative online mapping system. These groups trained 29 Citizen Pruners to use maps, aerial photos, and data from the Open Accessible Space Information System (www.oasisnyc.net) to collect detailed information on 322 trees in Hunts Point (Bronx), Lower East Side (Manhattan), and New Brighton (Staten Island).

The results were analyzed by the Forest Service’s Northeastern Research Station and SUNY’s School of Environmental Science and Forestry. The researchers found that the 322 trees had a combined replacement value of $1,038,458. On average, the trees were valued at more than $3,000 each ($3,225). The 322 surveyed trees were also found to remove and store more than 200 metric tons of carbon, and remove more than 500 pounds of pollutants each year (228 kg).

A more in-depth analysis by the Forest Service and SUNY revealed that all the trees in Bronx Community Boards 1 through 4, Manhattan Boards 1 through 6, and Staten Island’s Board 1 removed 143 tons of pollution annually (based on 2000 pollution and weather data), valued at $814,000.

The use of handheld mapping software enabled the surveyed trees to be pinpointed on interactive, online maps available at the OASIS website. This mapping site provides interactive access to New York’s green infrastructure, from community gardens to wetlands to parks to beaches and waterfronts – and now including street trees.

The following groups were involved in the Neighborhood Tree Survey Project: the Forest Service, through its Urban and Community Forestry and Research programs which work in cooperation with state forestry agencies and community-based partners to provide information and technical assistance in the planting and care of community trees and forests; NYPIRG’s Community Mapping Assistance Project, providing mapping services to nonprofits and responsible for maintaining the OASIS website; Council on the Environment of New York City, a privately funded citizens’ organization in the Mayor’s office that promotes environmental awareness and solutions to environmental problems;
Trees New York, a nationally acclaimed organization that plants, preserves, and cares for trees through community-oriented and technical services, including the Citizen Pruner program; and Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI), the provider of computer mapping software and a key partner in the development of the OASIS website.