How can Eco be used in parks with natural and managed areas?

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How can Eco be used in parks with natural and managed areas?

Post by azelaya » Wed Oct 17, 2018 10:38 am

Many parks have both managed and natural areas which can make planning and deciding on flexible Eco data collection options difficult. Common questions include:
  • Should we limit the area of data collection?
  • Should we limit the trees to focus on collecting larger trees?
  • How much time will doing the natural areas add?
  • Can we do both plots and complete inventory?
It may help to ask you and/or your team a couple questions to help shape possibilities?

Consider Objectives - How will the park assessment/inventory be used? Inventory data can be used for advocacy, management, or both. If using results for management, it may help to collect smaller diameter trees as they will show what the diameter distribution and species composition will be like in the future. If the inventory is intended for advocacy mostly, you may want to focus on larger trees... say over 3" diameter to capture the trees that will be showing the highest ecosystem service values. Although we recommend applying consistent methods, you can choose to collect all trees in managed areas and larger trees in the natural areas if using the complete inventory option, but realize the limitation that the natural areas are not fully represented in the data and estimates.(This approach wouldn't work if sampling with plots)

Consider Resources - Do you have time and resources to capture data in the natural or wooded areas? this can add significantly to the the time for data collection depending on the scale and scope of the project.

Stratification & zone options - Can you stratify the project by areas or management zones to build flexibility into data collection? This may allow you to focus on the managed areas first and become more proficient at data collection. I usually recommend this option because it allows you to focus on accessible and high profile areas and makes the experience easier and enjoyable for volunteers to learn. You can then consider adding in the trees in natural areas as new strata/zone later, or if time permits.

Data collection options - The eco v6 data collection options gives you flexibility in project design. You may decide to collect species, DBH and condition (%dieback) which would eliminate time needed to measure crown metrics. This may help speed up data collection if you decide to collect all trees especially in more challenging areas. Alternatively, if you are interested in ecosystem services, estimates will be more accurate if you collect more tree variables. You can do a dry run and try collecting a few trees in a natural area to get an idea of challenges - you will become more efficient as you become comfortable with the process.

Combining plots and inventory methods - There is not a way to do this within the Eco single project framework as you have to select one option at the onset. Although it is possible to use both methods, this would require having multiple Eco projects with their own results, and more complex project design and results interpretation. I am only familiar with a couple examples of combined assessment methods that were used for park systems with multiple parcels and land types.
  • Three Rivers Park System in MN used the complete inventory option to assess trees in managed areas such as recreation areas and picnic groves. The entire park system of multiple parks with many heavily forested areas was also surveyed using random plots distributed throughout the individual parks in the entire county park system. Plots in wooded natural areas typically took a whole day to sample. The sample project would provide information and characterize structure for the overall county park system, but have more limited value for characterizing individual parks, as most individual parks only had a plot or two. The complete inventory option was applied in (2) parks but only included trees in managed areas. This was mostly intern driven and not completed but provided valuable information as one of the few applications like this.
Remember, there are no right or wrong decisions as every project has different objectives and resources. Considering these questions will help your team see a viable and practical path forward.
A member of the i-Tree Team
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