What is Treezilla?

Treezilla is an exciting new platform for citizen science that everyone from school children to university students and the general public can get involved with.

The idea is to map every tree in Britain.

This will create a data-rich platform on which a wide range of citizen science investigations can be built.

Ecosystem services

The initial focus of the project is looking at the ‘ecosystem services’ provided by trees. Imagine a tree in your neighbourhood, it is not just an inert object, it is a living plant taking in carbon dioxide from the air and giving out the oxygen we need to survive. The tree also removes various pollutants from the atmosphere such as PM10 particulates, sulphur dioxide, ozone and nitrogen dioxide. These pollutants can have serious negative effects on human health, 24,000 people die each year as a result of air pollution. Urban trees are particularly important in reducing the levels of air pollution.

Trees can also help cool buildings in hot summer weather due to shading and diffuse moisture loss and reduce windspeeds so reducing heat loss from buildings in winter. During heavy rainfall trees can have a large beneficial effect in reducing the peak flow and avoiding overloading urban drainage systems. Trees hold moisture on their leaves and branches which may then be evaporated back into the atmosphere.

The benefit calculations take into account negative effects such as the fuel used in maintaining the trees.

Although not an ecosystem service, the amenity value of trees can also be high for example areas with trees tend to have higher property values than those without trees even within the same types of housing.

How do I take part?

Sign up and click on the link to add a tree.

Move around the map to the area where you want to add tree information and zoom right in to see the tree. Click on the tree and that’s it you’ve added the tree to the database.

The next thing is to add more information about that tree, particularly the name of the species and its size. If you don’t know what type of tree it is then you can take some pictures and upload them and someone will help with identifying the species.

You can also add other information about the tree, for example noting whether there are any pests or diseases. We are particularly interested in some of the recently emerging diseases such as Ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea), there are links to identification resources and you can upload photos concerning these conditions too.

It is also possible to search the map to see many aspects of the data, for example you can find out the yearly eco benefit of ash trees in Milton Keynes.

What are the scientific objectives?

As a citizen science platform, Treezilla can be used to serve a wide variety scientific objectives. For example, studies of the epidemiology of new and emerging tree diseases, evaluation of ecosystem services provided by trees, effects of climate change on tree growth and condition and macroecology.

How does Treezilla contribute to learning?

The most successful citizen science projects integrate data collection with a learning experience for participants, creating synergy between research and education. Treezilla will offer two kinds of learning experience: 1. 'Pre-baked' projects where participants will be invited to contribute data to scientific investigations of the kind mentioned above, and 2. self-designed investigations. To facilitate this enquiry-based approach to learning, Treezilla will interface with nquire project software which will enable students to design, execute and publish their own, autonomous investigations based on the Treezilla dataset.

Community engagement

Everyone has strong opinions about trees, especially those growing in their local neighbourhood. The OpenTreeMap project in USA has generated a strong sense of community-environment engagement in American cities where it has been deployed. Adding the teaching aspects should enhance engagement further through informal learning. Anyone can not only map ‘their’ trees but they can also help other members of the online community to map, identify and go on to take more responsibility for their local trees and environment in general. This may lead to a willingness to engage with aspects of governance and be a route into more formal environmental education. Every town could become an arboretum.