Mapping Venerable Trees

Mapping Venerable Trees is one of our most important projects. Our work is much more than simple mapping. Here is a brief introduction to our Woodland Pasture GIS.

Map of a woodland pasture

Map of a woodland pasture showing ancient trees by species (circle color) and condition (circle size). The map also shows the hydrology (streams, ponds) and a 1-ft resolution aerial photograph of the pasture.

Everybody uses maps. They provide a quick, pictorial view of a large amount of information.  At Venerable Trees, we make maps from our GIS/

What is GIS? A GIS, or Geographical Information System, is a set of data and analysis that can be visualized as a map. The uses of GIS range from routing garbage trucks to understanding tropical deforestation. The National Geographic has an excellent, nontechnical explanation of GIS.   A good GIS provides analytical and explanatory power that maps alone or databases alone cannot provide.

At Venerable Trees, Inc., we are creating a GIS of the ancient trees of the Bluegrass and Nashville Basin. We map a woodland pasture or individual trees using GPS, and collect data about the trees.  We can then present information about the trees in an easy-to-use map form.

Some of this information will be public, such as the location of venerable trees in city parks.  Some of it is private, such as a woodland pasture on a Bluegrass farm. GIS provides an easy way to share data with other organizations and agencies.

Creating a GIS is a core activity from which we can create management plans, assess water and soil quality impacts of woodland pastures, maintain records of individual ancient trees and create tours and other educational materials.

Map of woodland pasture with trees and soil

A woodland pasture showing trees and soil. This allows us to analyze the relationship between tree species and condition and soil type.

Viewing data as maps. The maps here are of a woodland pasture. The first map shows a high-resolution aerial photograph of the pasture. The circles represent individual ancient trees. Each species is a different color, and the size of the circle indicates the condition of the tree (smallest – dead; largest – excellent condition).  We could add lots of other information about the trees, such as diameter, crown size, and details of the condition (e.g. lightning struck, crown dieback, insect or disease status).

The second map shows the same pasture, but this time the underlying layer is a detailed soils map. This allows us to analyze, for example, whether certain trees are more likely to be found on a specific soil, or to grow faster on a more fertile soil.