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You are here: Home News & Events Tree map: Program catalogs every grove in the U.S. forest

Tree map: Program catalogs every grove in the U.S. forest

Karin Riley, a fire researcher at the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, helped develop Tree Map, a computer program that catalogs data for wooded areas across the Continental United States. The program allows researchers and fire crews to study and react to fire patterns for better mitigation and suppression.

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Look at a wooded hillside.

Single out a grove of trees about the size of a couple of basketball courts. Hike up there and count every tree in that space, measure its height, check its health and record all the results.

Repeat 2.8 billion times.

Or call up the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and borrow their new Tree Map. In a 21st-century version of seeing the forest for the trees, a team of fire researchers in Missoula have crunched all those pixels of satellite data to inventory the woods covering nearly a third of the Continental United States.

“Lots of other people have tried to do this with limited success,” said Karin Riley, one of the researchers who helped develop the Tree Map. “When we started embarking on this, a lot of them told us we would fail. It’s a really hard problem.”

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