Trail to Flatirons, Boulder. Photo by Dave Kleinschmidt, Flickr

Boulder’s Essential Green: Moving beyond Concrete as a Strategy for Resilience

Natural resource management in cities is a tough gig. In Boulder, a Colorado city that knows a thing or two about managing its green infrastructure, they are seeking to devise sound, long-term plans for the health and longevity of their city’s green infrastructure, all while Mother Nature constantly and unpredictably threatens the city’s natural resources. With climate change producing ever more environmental challenges and stressors on cities’ infrastructure, smart strategies for natural resource management have never been more critical for building resilient cities. Fortunately, Boulder and many other cities have access to an untapped resource: trees—proven multi-taskers with nearly 350 million years of experience in strengthening urban foundations.

Indeed, maintaining or increasing a city’s urban tree canopy (UTC) can provide myriad benefits such as improving air quality; absorbing carbon dioxide; lowering the heat island effect; and reducing storm water runoff.

Map of Boulder’s Ash trees and Emerald Ash Borers detected.

As part of an ambitious climate commitment plan, Boulder aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Maintaining its existing tree canopy—especially against an invasive species called Emerald Ash Borer that threatens much of Boulder’s UTC—while strategically increasing it are two ways to help it achieve its goal. Trimble is providing Boulder with its eCognition® Essentials software, which integrates and analyzes geospatial imagery and GIS datasets to produce land-cover classifications of specific object types such as trees or buildings. Trimble is also providing training to help city managers determine a baseline UTC––the first step to advancing their tree-canopy development and management strategies.

Using satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe, another 100RC Platform Partner, and existing LiDAR data, Trimble’s software will automatically classify and map Boulder’s green infrastructure—giving the city of Boulder and Chief Resilience Officer Greg Guibertan accurate picture of their tree coverage citywide. This not only shows tree locations and coverage, it reveals how much potential tree canopy could be added. With this baseline, Boulder can begin planning active management strategies to strengthen the city’s resilience. In addition, the training empowers managers to create a repeatable image-analysis system to continually monitor and measure the effectiveness of their urban forest betterment plans.

With the release of Boulder’s Resilience Strategy, the city builds on its existing work safeguarding and leveraging its green infrastructure, and can begin to take advantage of the cutting-edge work of Trimble and Digital Globe to understand and develop its UTC in ways that were previously impossible.

Learn more about Trimble eCognition softwareDigitalGlobe’s part, and other resilient cities including New York and Pittsburgh that are using eCognition to accurately classify and map, as well as continually measure, their UTCs.