Bluesky's National Tree Map to Help Hay Fever Sufferers

by | Apr 1, 2015

Leicestershire, April 1, 2015”By shedding light on the way pollen travels through our atmosphere, a ground breaking new environmental dataset is helping scientists improve the lives of hay fever sufferers. Created from high resolution aerial photography and colour infrared data, the National Tree Map database details more than 280 million trees covering around 20,000 square kilometres, and has been painstakingly produced by aerial mapping company, Bluesky.

In a novel research initiative, experts at the Met Office and University of Exeter Medical School have partnered with Bluesky to develop the most detailed, species specific maps of allergenic pollen ever produced. This information will then be combined with detailed models of how pollen is likely to move and behave in the atmosphere. It will allow researchers to assess the links between pollen exposure and allergic diseases such as asthma, as well as examine other potential health implications, including links to pre-term births, strokes and mental health issues.

Dr Rachel McInnes, Senior Climate Scientist at the Met Office Hadley Centre, commented, Different types of pollen are released from different plants and trees at different times of the year. These can trigger hay fever and other allergies that can have a serious impact on the health and wellbeing of sufferers. By understanding where and when allergens are produced and how they are affected by weather and climate, we can gain a better understanding of their impact on health and provide more accurate and detailed forecasts.

The Bluesky National Tree Map data is particularly useful as it provides detail of trees in urban environments, small wooded areas and hedgerows that our existing forest datasets do not cover, she continued, and will help make the resulting pollen maps more accurate in these areas.

Using a tested methodology, scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre will use Bluesky's National Tree Map data alongside other land use maps, vegetation and species datasets. The project will not only consider the actual location of where the pollen is produced, but will also look at when it is produced and how and where it is likely travel, taking into account species characteristics and climatological impacts.

Dr Nick Osborne at the University of Exeter Medical School said, This kind of data can help us understand and plan for periods likely to affect those with allergies. We're hoping that by joining all of this information up we might one day be able to provide forecasts that not only help individuals, but also allow us to target our healthcare more effectively.

Dr Sari Kovats, lead of the Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Change and Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, added, This project is part of a series of work we are coordinating looking at how our health is affected by various aspects of the natural environment. These projects will provide high quality scientific evidence to support UK public health policies relating to environmental change, particularly climate change and land use change, that we know are already influencing pollen exposures in the UK.

This research project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research Heath Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Environmental Change and Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in partnership with Public Health England (PHE). The University of Exeter, University College London and Met Office are also project partners.

The Met Office is the UK's National Weather Service, providing 24×7 world-renowned scientific excellence in weather, climate and environmental forecasts and severe weather warnings for the protection of life and property.

The Met Office Hadley Centre advises the UK government on climate change research. Its work is, in part, jointly funded by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and DECC (Department for Energy and Climate Change).

The University of Exeter Medical School is improving the health of the South West and beyond, through the development of high quality graduates and world-leading research that has international impact.

As part of a Russell Group university, we combine this world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction. The University of Exeter Medical School's Medicine programme is ranked 7th in the Guardian University Guide 2015. Exeter has over 19,000 students and is ranked 7th in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide league table, and 10th in The Complete University Guide and 12th in the Guardian University Guide 2015. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), the University ranked 16th nationally, with 98% of its research rated as being of international quality. Exeter's Clinical Medicine research was ranked 3rd in the country, based on research outputs that were rated world-leading. Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care research also ranked in the top ten, in joint 9th for research outputs rated world-leading or internationally excellent. Exeter was The Sunday Times University of the Year 2012-13.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and postgraduate education in public and global health, with 3,900 students and more than 1,000 staff working in over 100 countries. The School is one of the highest-rated research institutions in the UK, and was recently cited as the world's leading research-focused graduate school. Our mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in public and global health research, education and translation of knowledge into policy and practice.


The Bluesky National Tree Map has been created using innovative algorithms and image processing techniques in combination with the most up to date and detailed aerial photography and height data in the UK. A team of experienced professionals then completed an exhaustive QA process to ensure the quality and accuracy of the data. In addition to the three vector map layers; Crown Polygons, Idealised Crowns and Height Points, the Bluesky National Tree Map also includes an attribute table including unique identification for each crown feature, height attributes and area calculations. The data is available in a range of GIS ready formats with flexible annual licencing.


Applications of the Bluesky National Tree Map include subsidence risk assessment by insurance companies, propagation modelling for telecommunication infrastructure planning, network resilience assessment for utility companies and carbon reduction planning for environmental mitigation projects. Existing users of the data are already reporting significant improvements in day to day planning and operational efficiency achieved through the use of Bluesky National Tree Map data.


Bluesky National Tree Map is currently available for England and Wales with work already underway to create coverage for Scotland.

Bluesky is a UK-based specialist in aerial survey including aerial photography, LiDAR and thermal data using the very latest survey technology, including an UltraCam Eagle and an Orion M300 LiDAR system.  An internationally recognised leader with projects extending around the globe, Bluesky is proud to work with prestigious organisations such as Google, the BBC and Government Agencies.

Bluesky has unrivalled expertise in the creation of seamless, digital aerial photography and maintains national off the shelf coverage of aerial photography, DTM and DSM through an on-going update programme.  By purchasing a World first sensor for the simultaneous capture of LiDAR, Thermal and Aerial Photography data Bluesky is in the enviable position of being able to provide customers with unique and cost effective solutions.


Bluesky is also leading the way in developing innovative solutions for environmental applications including the UK's first National Tree Map (NTM), solar mapping and citywide ˜heat loss' maps and is currently developing noise and air quality mapping products.


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