A Little TLC for City Trees
Urban street trees tend to die young, but with a little TLC from committed volunteer stewards they can live much longer. That’s the major finding of a five-year study conducted by Steven Boyce, an urban tree enthusiast in New York City.
“Tree stewardship makes a big difference,” Boyce told a class of aspiring city tree pruners. “The mortality rate for trees without stewards is more than three times greater than those with stewards.”
The students in the class were participants in the Citizen Pruner program organized by Trees New York, an environmental and urban forestry nonprofit organization based in New York City.
Boyce studied existing and newly planted street trees in his neighborhood, TriBeCa, a once-industrial area that sits below Canal Street on the West Side of Manhattan. He examined the trees from 2005 – 2009.
The study was a follow-up to a tree census that neighborhood volunteer group Friends of Greenwich Street (FGS) conducted in 2003 – 2004.
The census highlighted what Boyce had long known: TriBeCa was seriously tree deficient. TriBeCa’s 503 living street trees provided an “urban forest canopy” that provided shade for less than 1% of the neighborhood, well below the city average of 6%.
In light of the census findings, FGS initiated a plan to increase the number of street trees in TriBeCa from 503 to 900 by 2015 and enlist volunteer tree stewards.
“FGS sought to match the study area’s street trees with street stewards committed to fostering their street tree’s health and longevity,” writes Boyce, president of FGS’s board of directors, in the study.
How is the group doing?
So far, it has 745 trees, more than half of which have stewards.
TriBeCa’s trees are perking up already.
Caption for photo above: Street trees that lack stewards have significantly higher mortality rates than those that do.