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Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Online
Volume 45, Issue 5 — September 2019

Urban Tree Mortality: A Literature Review

Deborah R. Hilbert, Lara A. Roman, Andrew K. Koeser, Jess Vogt, and Natalie S. van Doorn

Abstract: Tree survival is a performance metric for urban forestry initiatives, and an understanding of the factors that influence mortality can help managers target resources and enhance survival. Furthermore, urban tree planting investments depend on tree survival to maximize ecosystem services. In this literature review, we categorized factors commonly associated with urban tree mortality and summarized mortality rates published in 56 studies, focusing on studies of trees along streets, in yards, and in landscaped parks. Study designs included quantitative field monitoring of uneven-aged tree populations and tracking planting cohorts of even-aged trees, as well as qualitative analyses. Annual mortality rates ranged from 0.6 to 68.5% for cohort studies and 0 to 30% for repeated inventories of uneven-aged trees. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quartiles of annual mortality were 2.8 to 3.8%, 4.4 to 6.5%, and 7.1 to 9.3% for planting cohorts, and 1.6%, 2.3 to 2.6%, and 3.0 to 3.3% for repeated inventories of uneven-aged trees (ranges reflect studies that reported a range for the time period or mortality rate). For cohort studies, annual mortality tended to be highest during the first five years after planting. The most commonly cited biophysical factors associated with mortality were taxa (15 articles), tree size/age (13 articles), and site characteristics (12 articles). The most commonly cited human-related factors were stewardship, maintenance, and vandalism (15 articles). More long-term studies are needed to investigate how site characteristics influence mortality, including rarely examined soil and microclimate characteristics. Future research should also examine institutional structures related to mortality outcomes, as well as parcel-level sociodemographic factors and resident behaviors.

Keywords: Urban Tree Mortality: A Literature Review

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