Street View "shows promise" for urban tree surveys

Google's online Street View service offers urban tree managers a free and easy-to-use alternative to field surveys, with reasonable levels of accuracy, according to US researchers.

Image: Google
Image: Google

The researchers, from Ball State University, Indiana, used Street View to conduct a virtual survey of street trees in three municipalities, comparing results from this to existing field data from the same locations.

The virtual survey analyst recorded the locations of 597 street trees, identified trees to the species level, and estimated diameter at breast height. Over 93 per cent of those documented in the field survey were also observed in the virtual survey.

Furthermore, virtual tree identification agreed with field data for 90 per cent of trees at genus level, and for 66 per cent at species level, with this being less reliable for small trees, rare taxa, and for trees with multiple species in the same genus.

"In general, tree diameter was underestimated in the virtual survey, but estimates improved as the analyst became more experienced," the researchers noted, and concluded: "Virtual surveys in Street View may be suitable for generating some types of street tree data or updating existing data sets more efficiently than field surveys."

The findings are published in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.


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