Baltimore Field Station

Urban Forest Inventories

[photo:] A research technician sets up an iTree plot in Baltimore. Photo Credit: Ian Yesilonis, US Forest ServiceSome of the most significant scientific advances in urban forestry have come in recent decades with our increased ability to quantify the extent and quality of urban forests and to monitor this urban natural resource over time. These inventories make use of extensive remotely sensed data and intensive data from field plots, and can provide outputs such as detailed tree canopy maps for an entire city or estimated economic benefits from urban forests.


Baltimore Field Station staff have developed the Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) suite of tools that allow urban forest managers to assess present, possible, and preferable levels of tree canopy cover, using a prioritization modeling approach.


i-Tree Eco data has been collected every five years in Baltimore City since 1999, providing modeled estimates of urban forest species composition, air pollution removal, carbon storage and sequestration, reduced energy usage, and structural value. Baltimore is also one of the first locations to be included in the new Urban Forest Inventory & Analysis (FIA) program. Urban FIA is expanding the US Forest Service’s comprehensive national forest inventory program to urban areas across the country.


LiDAR technology has been critical in producing an accurate accounting of urban tree canopy, which is required to support a range of management, programmatic, and scientific objectives. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a remote sensing technology that collects 3-dimensional point clouds of the Earth's surface. This detailed 3D imagery can be used to detect tree canopy obscured by shadows in traditional high-resolution 2D aerial imagery. In collaboration with researchers at NASA, a growing area of research is the addition of remotely sensed hyperspectral imaging to provide detailed tree species maps and even tree health information for an entire urban area.

Last Modified: February 9, 2017