Every tree in San Francisco will soon be accounted for online, thanks to a new, Wikified project that aims to plot them all.
The Urban Forest Map will officially launch Wednesday, drawing on tree information collected by the city of San Francisco and Friends of the Urban Forest, a non-profit group. Though the project is getting its start in the Bay Area, the site will head to other major cities in the coming months.
“We’re going to publish the most up-to-date data from our data sources. Then, from that point on, we’re going to allow the community to add and edit and update that information,” said Amber Bieg, the project manager of the Urban Forest Map project. “It’ll become a tree census from the community and function like a Wiki.”
The new website combines two trends: citizen science and local data projects. In the past several years, sites like EveryBlock and Yelp have had tremendous success collecting and presenting information about cities from the people, businesses, and governments there. Meanwhile, all kinds of citizen science projects have had success tracking birds and sorting through pictures from space.
While questions about the usefulness of citizen-acquired data dog some of the efforts, photographing and tagging the trees in your neighborhood may be a perfect application for citizen science. Conducting tree surveys is expensive for local governments, costing $3 per tree, Bieg estimates.
“If you are LA and you have 10 million trees, you’re spending 30 million dollars,” Bieg said. “That’s bigger than the entire urban forestry budget.”