Tree Ledger: Monitoring the Urban Forest with Machine Learning
Mr Felix Lipkin1, Miss Vicky Yuan1
1Player Piano Data Analytics, North Melbourne, Australia
There is established recognition that trees within the urban environment provide significant environmental, economic and social benefits. In response, LGA’s (Local Government Areas) are setting ambitious urban forest targets to increase canopy cover in the coming decades. However, most LGA’s are struggling to quantify their progress towards these aims. Using existing government data inventories, we have developed a Tree Ledger, which is a standardised, repeatable process for tree data collection and storage that is able to quantify tree growth, aging, and whether trees are planted or removed.
The Tree Ledger is a spatial database derived from an ensemble of deep learning and unsupervised algorithms run over multiple consecutive years of temporal high resolution aerial photographs. It essentially translates visible trees in the photography into georeferenced polygonal outlines of individual canopies. Each tree is assigned a unique Tree ID, which links each corresponding observation temporally across the study period enabling the monitoring of growth and presence. Tree Ledger is data agnostic and is coupled with other georeferenced observations made from other remote sensors.
Using the Tree Ledger process, we have found that approximately 80% of the urban forest can be measured confidently using multi-temporal aerial photography. The remaining pockets of dense vegetation is further interrogated with LiDAR integration.
The Tree Ledger has been utilized by a number of Victorian LGAs to understand where, how and why tree canopy losses and gains are occurring, allowing them to better plan for the sustainable and resilient cities of the future.
Felix Lipkin is founder and Principle Data Scientist at Player Piano Data Analytics. He is committed to his mission of building AI for the public good. He sees technology as critical to identifying and addressing the most pressing challenges we face when it comes to the environment and our cities.