Last week the city of San Francisco announced the first-ever tree census. Joined by the California Department of Forestry and the local nonprofit Friends of the Urban Forest, the city unveiled Urban Forest Map, a website that will allow residents to enter their neighborhood trees in the urban count. (Press release: “Can you save a tree by logging it? Yes, if you ‘log’ it into the Urban Forest Map.“) Organizers hope the tool will spread to other cities, allowing for a national census of leafy Americans — a hope that’s reflected in the site’s use of open-source software.
As the map of urban trees grows, organizers say government and NGO groups will be able to keep them healthier and, for the first time, to quantify the benefits trees provide by reducing air pollution, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing energy consumption in nearby homes.
Go to the site and you’ll be prompted to enter the type of tree, its size, its health and other identifying information. The tool immediately returns figures telling you how much the tree is giving back in dollars, kilowatts, pounds and particles. The only trouble is, you’ve got to be pretty good at tree identification to play — but who knows, maybe Urban Forest Map will spark a renaissance in botany.