How do urban trees vary across the US? It depends on where and how you look

Gisselle A. Mejía, Peter M. Groffman, Meghan L. Avolio, Anika R. Bratt, Jesse M Engebretson, Noortje Grijseels, Sharon J. Hall, Sarah E. Hobbie, Susannah B. Lerman, Elizaveta Litvak, Dexter H. Locke, Desiree L. Narango, Josep Padulles Cubino, Diane E. Pataki, Tara L.E. Trammell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Urban forests provide ecosystem services important for regulating climate, conserving biodiversity, and maintaining human well-being. However, these forests vary in composition and physiological traits due to their unique biophysical and social contexts. This variation complicates assessing the functions and services of different urban forests. To compare the characteristics of the urban forest, we sampled the species composition and two externally sourced traits (drought tolerance and water-use capacity) of tree and shrub species in residential yards, unmanaged areas, and natural reference ecosystems within six cities across the contiguous US. As compared to natural and unmanaged forests, residential yards had markedly higher tree and shrub species richness, were composed primarily of introduced species, and had more species with low drought tolerance. The divergence between natural and human-managed areas was most dramatic in arid climates. Our findings suggest that the answer to the question of “what is an urban forest” strongly depends on where you look within and between cities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Ecological Society of America.


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