Planting a Neighborhood: How building social networks to support tree planting can increase tree survivorship and vigor in the Massachusetts Greening the Gateway Cities Program

Authors: Nicholas Geron*,
Topics: Applied Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Sustainability Science
Keywords: Urban forestry, Ecosystem services, Governance, Survivorship curve, Mortality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Congressional A, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Trees in urban neighborhoods benefit residents by reducing building energy costs, providing cleaner air, decreasing surface runoff, and improving quality of life. The state of Massachusetts created the Greening the Gateway Cities Program (GGCP) to increase tree canopy cover by 10% in post-industrial, mid-sized cities with lower levels of educational attainment and household income than state averages. The GGCP’s governance model includes public and private actors at multiple scales. This study poses three questions that explore the link between program governance and tree establishment: What is the organizational structure of the GGC, and how does it compare to other urban tree planting programs? What is the survivorship and vigor of juvenile trees? Finally, how does the GGCP organizational structure promote tree health? This research examines the GGCP as a case study for how professional planting expertise combined with strong networking between state, city, community and residents can create the social and environmental infrastructure to support increased, healthy tree canopy in urban neighborhoods. Tree survivorship, annual mortality and vigor of 3661 trees in five gateway cities were used to measure the early-stage establishment success of the planting program and to forecast potential benefits to residents. Results show how an inclusive governance model produced an increased sense of place between city government, community organizations and individuals in the planting zones. The network, combined with the programs emphasis on effective stewardship, resulted in high rates of tree survivorship (~93%), low annual mortality rates (~2.5%) and average vigor rating of ~1.5 (1 being healthy).

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