Practical Methods for Reducing Urban Tree Mortality

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Tree-lined streets like this one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania cannot be created overnight. Trees must be monitored closely to ensure their long-term survival.

We recently hosted a webinar on practical methods for increasing the annual survival rates of young trees, a topic that is critical to ensuring the longterm growth of our urban forests. Urban forests provide environmental, health, economic benefits that motivate tree-planting programs. However, realizing these ecosystem benefits depends on tree survival. Overall canopy levels in major cities have been declining, and tree planting and regeneration do not offset current losses.

Small, young trees typically have highest mortality rates. However, accurate mortality data is hard to come by and the data that does exist suggests over a quarter of trees planted die within first 5 to 9 years.[1]  The lack of available information on mortality rates and causes demonstrates the need for standardized tree monitoring protocol. Collecting and analyzing longitudinal tree data will take years, but to assist in data collection efforts the Urban Tree Growth and Longevity Working Group developed a minimum data set necessary for any urban tree monitoring project. This data set includes field crew information, tree species, location, site type, mortality status, condition rating, and diameter at breast height (DBH).

Technology can be used to support effective, long-term monitoring of urban trees and assist with tree planting and maintenance data processes. Azavea prepared a report titled “Data Management for Urban Tree Monitoring” for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and the USDA Forest Service on the requirements for ideal software monitoring system. The report is the culmination of over twenty interviews with researchers, practitioners from organizations throughout the US (federal agencies, academic researchers, municipal and nonprofit employees, volunteers, students). Included in the report are in-depth analyses of the software offerings currently on the market and whether they meet the features requirements that allow for successful monitoring.

Data-driven decisions can help you maximize limited resources and advocate for additional funding. Watch the video for more detail on the minimum data set and using technology to ensure the health of your urban forest.

Effective monitoring is not the only solution to increasing the mortality rates of young trees. TreePans, a family-run business based in Iowa, has designed a product that protect trees from mechanical damage and allows for more efficient watering. In the video below, Ben Brown of TreePans discusses the core functionality of the protect, how the implementation of TreePans at one university helped reduce mortality rates, and the importance of providing workers and community members alike with the requisite knowledge and resources for helping care for young trees.

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