Identifying Common Practices and Challenges for Local
Urban Tree Monitoring Programs Across the United States
Lara A. Roman, E. Gregory McPherson, Bryant C. Scharenbroch, Julia Bartens
Abstract: Urban forest monitoring data are essential to assess the impacts of tree planting campaigns and management programs. Local practitioners have monitoring projects that have not been well documented in the urban forestry literature. To learn more about practitioner-driven monitoring efforts, the authors surveyed 32 local urban forestry organizations across the United States about the goals, challenges, methods, and uses of their monitoring programs, using an e-mailed questionnaire. Non-profit organizations, municipal agencies, state agencies, and utilities participated. One-half of the organizations had six or fewer urban forestry staff. Common goals for monitoring included evaluating the success of tree planting and management, taking a proactive approach towards tree care, and engaging communities. The most commonly recorded data were species, condition rating, mortality status, and diameter at breast height. Challenges included limited staff and funding, difficulties with data management and technology, and field crew training. Programs used monitoring results to inform tree planting and maintenance practices, provide feedback to individuals responsible for tree care, and manage tree risk. Participants emphasized the importance of planning ahead: carefully considering what data to collect, setting clear goals, developing an appropriate database, and planning for funding and staff time. To improve the quality and consistency of monitoring data across cities, researchers can develop standardized protocols and be responsive to practitioner needs and organizational capacities.
Keywords: Citizen Science; Forest Inventory and Analysis; i-Tree; Monitoring; Survey; Tree Mortality; Tree Planting.