Arboriculture & Urban Forestry 44(2): March 2018 Arboriculture & Urban Forestry 2018. 44(2):73–86 73 An Analysis of Agreement Between Volunteer- and Researcher-Collected Urban Tree Inventory Data Nick Bancks, Eric A. North, and Gary R. Johnson Abstract. In partial fulfillment of a grant to assess the potential impact of emerald ash borer on Minnesota, U.S., community forests, six communities were selected in 2009, and eight communities were selected in 2011, to complete tree surveys or inventories. Trained volunteers in each community were used to identify, measure, and assess their community trees. Training methods, technical assistance, and measurement tools utilized were updated between 2009 and 2011 based on input from community volunteers and university train- ing staff, allowing for a post hoc study of volunteer efficacy to be conducted. To assess volunteer efficacy and the effect of updated training protocols on data quality, comparisons between volunteer-collected data and university-collected data were analyzed for agreement in genus and species identification, tree measurements, and condition rating for a subsample of trees in each community. Agreement was the greatest for tree identification at the genus level (>90%) and the lowest overall for condition rating (<70%) for all communities. Statisti- cally differences between the 2009 and 2011 communities were detected with 2011 communities having higher levels of agreement on average. The increased probability of agreement with university researchers is likely attributable to increased focus on field-instruction, technical assistance, and more sophisticated tools used by the 2011 communities. However, detailed volunteer demographic data for each community was not available for analysis and could provide further insight into differences detected. Decisions to use volunteer collected data should incorporate appropriate levels of training and tool sophistication for the level of specificity required for a project. Key Words. Citizen Science; Community Involvement; Emerald Ash Borer; Minnesota; Tree Inventory; Urban Forest Inventory; Urban Forest Volunteers; Volunteer Data Accuracy; Volunteer Data Quality. Effective urban forest management is dependent on a community’s ability to develop, implement, and sustain the activities necessary for realizing the social, environmental, and economic benefits of the urban forest. Information pertaining to the size, condition, diversity, and stocking level of city trees should form the basis for rational de- cision making related to the management of ur- ban forests. However, the costs of collecting data fundamental to management can be prohibitive for communities lacking the necessary financial and staffing resources to carry out urban forest inventories (Kenney et al. 2011). Increasingly, urban and community forestry agencies and local governments are relying on volunteers to carry out programmatic goals. And while using volunteers can add much to a program, the mis- management of a volunteer resource can lead to problems (Ball 1986). Appropriately managed community volunteers and organizations can support and increase the ability of municipalities to plan and implement activities that maintain the function of urban forests (Elmendorf et al. 2003; Jack-Scott et al. 2013). Volunteer-driven inventory or survey initiatives can support management of the urban forests, while also providing indirect benefits, such as increased community engagement and empowerment, advocacy, knowledge, and skill development (Bloniarz and Ryan 1996; Cozad et al. 2006). The use of volunteers or citizen scientists to aid in monitoring, maintenance, and steward- ship programs has increased in areas of natural resource management. Government programs in Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Connecti- cut, Virginia, and Washington, U.S., have taken ©2018 International Society of Arboriculture
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