Urban tree survival and stewardship in a state-managed planting initiative

Authors: Theodore Eisenman*, University of Massachusetts - Amherst, Madison Kremer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Ben Breger, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Lara Roman, U.S. Forest Service
Topics: Landscape, Urban and Regional Planning, Environment
Keywords: urban trees, urban greening, stewardship, governance
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


Reflecting a bloom of interest in urban tree planting, the Greening the Gateway Cities Program (GGCP) in Massachusetts aims to plant thousands of trees in post-industrial cites across the state. To assess the factors that influence the survival of recently planted trees, we conducted a mixed-methods study of trees planted between 2014-2016 in Holyoke, a GGCP pilot city. Specifically, we interviewed 15 program stakeholders to assess stewardship and we coupled that data with a vigor and survival study of 749 trees planted along streets and on institutional grounds. A logistic regression model found that trees stewarded by state foresters were 5.18 times more likely to survive than those stewarded by local program recipients, and trees that were not impacted by a summer 2016 drought were 2.80 times more likely to survive. Importantly, the drought impact was muted for trees stewarded by the state and species characteristics were not significantly related to survival. Findings suggest that state-municipal partnerships can facilitate tree planting in under-resourced cities, but state-municipal mismatches related to goals and resources can impact post-planting survival. In the case at hand, local program recipients including the public works department were unable or unwilling to steward young tree plantings. This was likely due to insufficient funding and misalignment of goals, leaving stewardship as the state’s responsibility. Our study raises important questions about the governance of green infrastructure, and points to institutional capacity and stakeholder attitudes as important considerations in urban tree planting research and practice.

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