The Power of Data: From Planting Trees to Making Policies

This week I’m posting on behalf of the Trees Team. We’ve learned more about problems related to the tree canopy of Atlanta and have started working on solutions. We hope the following projects will benefit the city.

Identifying tracts of forest within the city: Atlanta is at risk of losing its many heavily wooded areas due to development. The Atlanta Tree Commission wants to identify these contiguous tracts of forest and their costs to prioritize which areas they need to conserve. A possibility is to use the Tree Trust Fund to either relocate specific trees or purchase the area. We will use ArcGIS with tree canopy data and parcel data to identify areas with dense tree cover in relation to cost and continuity.

Developing a tree scouting application: Trees Atlanta records information from the field in multiple ways. Currently, there is redundancy in the process as there is no way to record previously-scouted areas. To simplify the process of collecting field information on trees, we plan on creating an application that allows employees to enter and edit potential and completed tree planting sites based on their observations from the field. This data will be stored in a centralized database.

Potential planting sites prioritization: Since Atlanta is such a large city, finding ideal planting locations can be challenging and time consuming. Using multiple types of data, including floodplain data and impervious surfaces, we hope to develop a statistical model to prioritize potential planting sites. In addition, we will develop an interactive map that not only allows users to visualize planting sites, but also lets them dynamically prioritize the different factors the model is based on.

Tree loss over time: The Tree Conservation Commission wants to exemplify the loss of trees to policy makers, so efforts to manage and conserve trees will increase. Most trees in Atlanta are removed after obtaining a permit, which is granted if the ordinances allow it. Unpermitted removals, if caught, are fined. We plan on developing an interactive map showing the loss of trees over time in Atlanta. Once we explore the permit data, we might realize other possibilities as well.

Distribution of Trees by Species: To withstand different diseases and pests, it’s important for an urban forest to have a large diversity of trees. We’re developing a detailed interactive map that shows the variety of trees throughout Atlanta- we are heavily drawing inspiration from the NYC Street Trees by Species. We hope to accompany this map with an interactive visualization of the different species of trees by neighborhood, similar to An Interactive Visualization of NYC Street Trees. If time allows, we would like to brainstorm and create additional useful visualizations.


ATL Street Trees by Species
First version of the Distribution of Trees by Species Interactive Map

From our meeting with Trees Atlanta, we found out that their needs not only revolve around their daily work, but also with policymaking by the City of Atlanta. As the world advances, data is becoming more and more relevant to policymaking. Data-driven decision making is an influential part of every field, from politics to business. Through visualizations, predictive models, and more data related techniques, we can create new ways of understanding and applying information. It’s our job to make this data usable so the best decisions will be made. We hope Atlanta continues to be the City in the Forest.