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There are a number of tools available for those who want to focus on measuring the ecosystem benefits of an urban forest in terms of water management and health.

  • i-Tree Hydro (beta) is the newest of the i-Tree applications and is designed for users interested in analyses based on watershed levels and the effects of tree and land cover on hydrological functions. This tool uses available data to model changes in stream flow and water quantity within a defined watershed. By modeling these changes, urban foresters can better understand how trees and impervious surfaces affect water flow and quality.

    Credit: Jan Willem Reusink

  • Green Long-Term Control-EZ Template, developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), can assess the impacts that green roofs, permeable pavement and vegetation swales can have on a city. This tool helps to assess the costs, benefits and environmental outcomes associated with incorporating green infrastructure. The template is available for free online.
  • Green Values National Stormwater Management Calculator is a free online tool developed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology. It can help determine the impact of green roofs, planter boxes, rain gardens and trees using statistical data on land cover, precipitation, runoff averages and soil types. This tool is also able to compare current landscapes with hypothetical, user-generated landscapes. Hypothetical landscapes may include features like more trees. The calculator can quantify the difference in hydrological functions and the economic impacts for both scenarios.
  • LandServer is an assessment tool used by the Bay Bank, the conservation marketplace for the Chesapeake Bay. LandServer is the first step for landowners to engage in ecosystem markets and advocate for conservation funding. This tool assesses and values property and ecosystem services. Using a database of geographical and ecological information, LandServer can collect data on several environmental features, such as land use, source water watersheds and hydric soils.
  • SUSTAIN (System for Urban Stormwater Treatment and Analysis Integration) is an EPA tool used to assist in stormwater management in urban areas. It is useful in planning for stormwater flow, reaching water quality goals, controlling water pollution and protecting source water. SUSTAIN is also a decision-support system that’s helps identify best stormwater-management practices (BMPs) to implement them in areas where they will be both cost effective and low impact on the environment.

    Credit: EPA

  • TR-55 is a computer-based urban hydrology tool for small watersheds. It was developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and can calculate stormwater runoff volume and rate and storage volumes for floodwater reservoirs.
  • Watershed Forest Management Information System (WFMIS) is an extension of ArcGIS — a mapping and analysis tool — and is used to evaluate a forest and plan for conservation efforts, pollution mitigation, road maintenance and tree planting. There are three submodels of WFMIS: the Watershed Management Priority Indices (WMPI), the Forest Road Evaluation System (FRES) and the Harvest Schedule Review System (HSRS). WMPI helps users prioritize critical areas for restoration and conservation, while FRES evaluates road networks and their impacts on water quality and HSRS evaluates forest harvesting in relation to impacts on water quantity and quality. WFMIS also allows users to look at public and private properties to get a better picture of a full watershed’s characteristics and needs.

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 Section III: Urban Forest Assessment Tools