The need for urban tree monitoring protocols and standardized data collection was identified as a top research priority at The Morton Arboretum’s 2011 research roundtable on urban tree growth and longevity (Leibowitz 2012). These protocols could detect change over time and across cities, while providing flexibility required by diverse users. A similar desire was echoed by respondents to a national survey of 32 local urban forestry organizations (Roman et al. 2013). They reported that lack of funding and staffing are primary hurdles to monitoring. Instead of “re-creating the wheel” and each developing their own monitoring protocol, respondents expressed their interest in adopting a proven protocol, thereby freeing up scarce resources for other purposes, and enabling comparisons across programs.
When we asked survey participants for their recommendations, they suggested that protocols should be adaptable to different organizational capacities and needs, yet flexible for different situations. As one participant expressed, "It would be helpful if the standardized protocols are developed with various respondents’ program designs/capacities in mind, that information is supplied suggesting the relevance/appropriateness of suggested protocols to the diversity of programs." Other suggestions were to be inclusive and involve practitioners, and keep protocols simple for users, rather than “complicated and academic” (Roman et al. 2013). Our research findings document the critical need and strong support for a standard monitoring protocol. Suggestions from survey respondents form a set of guiding principles for the development of a protocol that will meet the needs of most users.
Guiding Principles for Urban Tree Monitoring Protocols:
Leibowitz, R. 2012. Urban tree growth and longevity: An international meeting and research symposium white paper. Arboriculture & Urban Forestry 38: 237-241.
Roman, L.A., E.G. McPherson, B.C. Scharenbroch, J. Bartens. 2013. Identifying common practices and challenges for local urban tree monitoring programs across the United States. Arboriculture & Urban Forestry 39: 292-299.