Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Chopping Down the London Tree Map


This week Cartonerd has taken his sharpened axe to the London Tree Map. This new interactive map from the Greater London Authority shows the location and genus of 700,000 London trees.

London has over 8 million trees, therefore the London Tree Map is clearly not an exhaustive map of all of London's trees. This is one of Cartonerd's main complaints with the map. In Can't See the Woods for the Trees he argues that by mapping less than ten percent of London's trees the map is obviously a false representation of London's trees.

This criticism is obviously true. However the introduction to the map clearly states that the map is not an exhaustive survey of London's trees. So this criticism is also a little harsh, However another of Cartonerd's criticisms of the map, namely the 'lack of naming conventions for recording species' in the data, highlights a really serious problem with the quality of the data.

Before reading Cartonerd's criticisms of the map I had happily been using the map to identify the species of trees in my street. I also used the map to find out the locations of a number of edible fruit and chestnut trees that I didn't know about in my neighborhood.

Cartonerd clearly feels that the London Tree Map 'lies' and shouldn't have been released until the errors and inconsistencies in the data are addressed. If you live in London I think that you still might be interested in using the map to help identify the trees in your street and neighborhood. However it is obviously worth bearing in mind the inconsistencies in the data identified by Cartonerd and remaining aware that this map shouldn't be read uncritically.
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