Singapore Uses GIS to Manage Large Urban Forest

By Matthew Freeman, ESRI

The Singapore National Parks Board (NParks) takes care of 1.3 million trees located in 300 parks and on more than 2,400 hectares of Garden City roadsides using GIS. NParks’ GIS, known as the Park Integrated Management System (PRIME), is a custom software application built and hosted on an ArcGIS Server platform. The city selected ArcGIS Server because, for more than a decade, NParks and other government agencies in Singapore have shared information through a common GIS, the Land Information Network (LandNet), which is also supported by ArcGIS.

LandNet hosts an island basemap containing layers such as roads; buildings; waterlines; parks; and, of course, trees. Updates in the tree layer of PRIME go directly to LandNet; thus, any tree data imported into PRIME becomes visible in the LandNet environment.

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority staff members regularly use LandNet to access NParks’ tree database to gain insight about safety concerns. They can then include tree preservation components when planning new road construction and widening projects. TheUrban Redevelopment Authority accesses the tree database to aid in planning new housing or business developments. This information can be accessed and viewed from desktop computers, or it can be used to produce paper maps.

ArcGIS Server technology also supports mobile computers, which NParks uses in the field to record its tree data. NParks’ field crews use handheld computers equipped with ArcPad to log data related to the position, size, health, and species of each tree. Once data is entered, the GIS integrates with the database to generate and assign a unique ID to each tree and stores it in the PRIME geodatabase. NParks began using GIS to capture tree locations in early 2000, and currently, most of the roadway trees and trees in the abutting open spaces have been recorded.

“The previous method for cataloging trees was a manual process,” explains Tee Swee Ping, assistant director of NPark’s Streetscape program. “It involved a tedious manual ID system and a lot of paperwork. GIS is much faster and more efficient and provides better documentation.  It is very neat, clean, streamlined, and standardized. GIS gives us different views of data layers such as roadways, lampposts, trees, and basemaps. This provides an accurate perspective.”

The Singapore National Parks Board stores tree attribute data such as location,
size, species, health, and trimming history in its GIS database.
In addition to importing data on location, size, and species, for legal purposes, a health inspection is conducted regularly and recorded each time a tree is trimmed. This documentation serves as a history and provides proof that NParks is giving due care to its trees.

Singapore is a fast-growing city. Developers are required to replace or replant every tree uprooted during construction, and the codes for planting along new roadsides are enforced. New parks continue to be developed and populated with tree shade, and government and public programs—such as Heritage Tree Scheme, Heritage Roads, Community in Bloom, and Plant-A-Tree—promote a good balance of industry and nature. Putting Singapore’s tree data into a GIS database helps NParks and other government agencies ensure that these policies, guidelines, programs, and stipulations are followed.

For more information about this project, contact Tee Swee Ping, assistant director of Streetscape, Singapore National Parks Board (e-mail: tee_swee_ping@nparks.gov.sg).

ESRI Forestry GIS Journal, Summer 2009

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