Options for Collecting and Working with Tree Surveys


You wish to understand the options available to you for working with KeyTREE to manage and present your tree surveys that comply with BS5837:2012.


KeyTREE does not include a solution for capturing tree survey data but supports a wide range of options that will depend on your starting point, requirements, access to digital systems, hardware and budget. The following information is provided as guidance and help you assess your own requirements. If you have specific questions please contact us to discuss.


Recording Tree Data Digitally

Options to collect tree data on site vary considerably and KeyTREE will support any digital recording system that can export to industry recognised standards and that comply with our recommended data format definitions. These include Trmble, PocketGIS, MS Excel/spreadsheets and open source options, such as QField,(requires QGIS). Suppliers such as ArbEvolveM-GISS and OTISS offer device options for most budgets and provide a KeyTREE template that makes recording and importing tree information quick and easy.



KeyTREE requires a full copy of Windows and relatively high specification computer to run so will not run on most mobile devices. Also, attempting to position and specify trees on site can be challenging (see 'Factors to consider' below) and it is recommended that you spend your time on site more productively recording the tree information, using the simple collection methods (see below), and use the power of KeyTREE to import and present your tree surveys.


The platform you wish to use to run your surveying software will depend how much you are willing to spend. Some software will run on mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets, and others require more sophisticated solutions. Generally, there is a trade-off between cost verses usefulness and accuracy on site. Please consider the following points before making your decision of what hardware and software to purchase:


Factors to Consider

Screen Size

Smaller screens are more challenging to use

Screen Glare

Shiny screens make it difficult to use due to reflection on sunny, bright days and the sky, even on dull days

Ruggedness/Water resistance

Sites are not always dry with soft terrain. If you drop the device or it rains, is the device adequately protected or waterproof such that it does not break or fail?

Battery Life

Affects how long you can remain on site. Multiple battery packs can be useful for all day surveys

Input Device/Methods

Use of a stylus (digital pen), finger or Voice To Text software will depend on your preference and a combination of these may be useful to consider for entering specific information. The use of drop-down lists, populated with common data can speed up selection, reduce inconsistencies and avoid spelling mistakes

Number of Trees to Record

The more trees and complex the survey, the more likely the choice of software and hardware will help you. Consider this when making your choice because the savings in time and number of surveys you can undertake may outweigh the setup costs

What information you record

Most values can be measured but some information such as tree height has to be estimated. Some devices allow you record this more accurately using an in-built laser

Use of GPS

GPS systems triangulate your position based on the location of satellites overhead. The accuracy of standard smart phone/tablet GPS systems, in open sky can vary between below 1m to above 5 metres, depending on the number of satellites that are in range and weather conditions at any moment in time. The costly systems offer more reliable satellite connectivity and achieve more accurate Results. Some suppliers offer a post processing service that corrects the data once you return from site, increasing accuracy. Also, you will be recording positions from the edge, not centre of the stem so an adjustment should be made to accommodate for this discrepancy. 

Web-based applications

Without adequate and reliable connection speeds to the Internet, these may not be practical for use on all sites

Recording Under Canopies

Tree cover will create a barrier to overhead satellites making it difficult to use GPS-enabled devices Some hardware include a laser that records tree locations based on the offset distance between the tree and the position of the observer, stood in open ground



Starting Point and Options

The systems you require will depend on your starting point, your clients requirements, how you wish to work (fully digital / mix of digital and analogue techniques), the number and size of your tree surveys and the required outputs. A summary of options are provided below:


Architect, Client and OS Base Plans

KeyTREE software is based on AutoCAD so you can easily share drawings with clients using the industry standard .DWG format, or the DXF drawing exchange format if they are not using AutoCAD. Most CAD and GIS software can import and export .DWG or DXF files. If you receive an AutoCAD base plan from a client, Architect, or purchase this from Ordnance Survey, you can simply open and work directly on the plan. See our knowledge base article "Using a drawing for the first time in KeySCAPE & KeyTREE".


Topo Base

These are typically AutoCAD drawings with the tree/group locations plotted and can be opened and used, as above


Plotting Trees Manually / Working with Paper

Plot the drawing from KeyTREE and use the paper print to record the tree data on site. When you return to the office, use KeyTREE to overlay the information by inserting trees and specifying trees individually


Digitally Surveyed Data

If you have captured your survey information digitally, you can import this to quickly draw all your trees and groups in KeyTREE.
If your survey data includes Eastings and Northing locations you can use KeyTREE to automatically insert and draw all the trees and groups in a single operation. If you do not have the Easting and Northing locations recorded, you simply need to insert each tree individually, using the topo base as a guide. See our online Help regarding Importing Tree Data


PDF Plans

These are typically plotted drawings at a scale so you will need to import the document into KeyTREE, convert it to AutoCAD entities and scale the drawing back to real-world values before overlaying your tree data.


Import from Google Earth

Provides a simple method of recording the location of individual trees, outlines of group and centre lines of hedges that can be saved as a KML/KMZ file that can be imported directly into KeyTREE. This provides a useful starting point to add your detailed site survey information.


Also See - KeyTREE Data Formats