By Jay Gormley, CBS 11 News

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – If you can take a census of the people, then why not a census for trees?  Dallas arborist Steve Houser asked that very question.

“It’s important to know because we can’t manage an asset that we don’t fully understand.”

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Houser has been studying trees for over 30 years and wanted to know exactly how many trees are in the city of Dallas.

“Trees clean our air, our water and our soil,” said Houser

Houser contacted dr. Fang Qiu at UT-Dallas.  Dr. Qiu is an expert on GPS, but decided to use laser sensing technology known as LiDAR to help Houser with his census.  LiDAR can determine the height, the spread and the number of trees in a certain area, but it comes with a drawback

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“LiDAR does not provide information about what kind of tree or the species of the tree,” said Dr. Qiu.

So Dr. Qiu combined LiDAR with a Hyperspectral technology designed to detect hundreds of colors. The device allowed researchers to identify trees such as, oaks, pecans and cedars to name a few.  In fact, researchers uncovered 48 different types of trees.

The team loaded a plane with both technologies and flew over two neighborhoods in Dallas; Turtle Creek and White Rock Lake. Using data from those two samples, researchers determined there are roughly six million trees in the entire city; a shock to all those involved in the census.

“I’ve seen these trees all my life. They’re like kin to me. I would’ve guessed maybe two million,” said Houser.

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Researchers hope this new information will help them balance nature with progress, because they don’t want to see a Dallas that sacrifices its trees for a concrete jungle.