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Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Online
Volume 39, Issue 2 — March 2013

Using Size Class Distributions of Species to Deduce the Dynamics of the Private Urban Forest    (View PDF)

Lilian M. Pearce, James B. Kirkpatrick, and Aidan Davison

Abstract: Urban governance in Western societies is increasingly shaped by awareness of the importance of trees in maintaining the environmental function and social livability of cities. Records of change in urban forest composition on public land are generally good. However, a great proportion of trees in western cities occur on private land, where such changes are poorly-documented. The study authors trialed the use of size class analysis, a technique widely used to deduce the dynamics of natural forests, to determine change in the private urban forest. From a sample of blocks in ten suburbs of the Australian cities of Melbourne and Hobart, in which most dwellings have front and back gardens, researchers assessed the implications of changes for the functionality of the urban forest. The height class distributions of a large number of front garden tree taxa were classified. Although the factors affecting height class distributions differ between a natural and an urban forest, those distributions found for most species were so extreme that there was little doubt in interpretation. Tree species that can grow to a large height were under-represented in the smaller height classes, indicating their future decline in the private tree estate. Individuals of glossy-leaved small tree species were over-represented in the smaller height classes, indicating a recent increase in their popularity. The shift toward smaller, denser trees on private land has implications for the functions of the urban forest. A higher level of large tree protection on private land and compensation through planting on public land could mitigate impacts.

Keywords: Garden Tree; Species Composition; Species Preference; Street Tree; Suburban Residents; Tree Management; Urban Forest; Urban Plants; Urban Vegetation

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