Planting Trees and Harvesting Data

You may not know it, but the Community Forestry department at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB) has been collecting data on our newly planted trees for almost 10 years. Specifically, we collect the GPS coordinates of each tree on the day of planting, and then we link those GPS points to other tree data, such as each tree’s species, size, nursery of origin, and root containment method. When we started collecting this data, we could not have anticipated all the ways it would become useful to KIB and to others. A few years ago, the Bloomington Urban Forestry Research Group (BUFRG) at Indiana University found out that KIB had been collecting tree data. Since then, members of this research group have been using KIB’s data to generate published research articles in peer-reviewed journals. Members of the KIB Youth Tree Team were trained by BUFRG researchers to collect tree data in both 2012 and 2014 (see picture of 2012 YTT data collectors). 


The first published research article was published in Arboriculture & Urban Forestry in March 2014, titled “Watering strategy, collective action, and neighborhood-planted Trees: A case study of Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A.” The most recently published research article can be found in Landscape and Urban Planning and is titled “Explaining planted-tree survival and growth in urban neighborhoods: A social–ecological approach to studying recently-planted trees in Indianapolis.” (Anyone can download and read the entire article for free at this link.) The findings in the Landscape and Urban Planning article include: 

  • An 89.4% survival rate for KIB trees planted 2006-2009 (survival assessment in 2011-2012).
  • “Planting smaller trees will yield trees that become established and grow more quickly in the landscape.”
  • “Correct mulching practices positively impact tree growth rates.”

The Community Forestry department is proud to have been part of this published research that benefits community forestry efforts around the world! As we celebrate, we are also making plans to charge ahead with data and research. We are currently developing a mobile device app that will allow KIB staff and volunteers to assess the survival and condition of the trees we have planted. We are also working on a highly accurate canopy assessment and plantable space assessment for Marion County, which will allow us to be more strategic in prioritizing our community engagement and tree planting efforts. If this kind of thing excites you, please feel free to donate to KIB to support further research!