STORY: Location, location, location: Choose best city sites for healthier trees

More than 80% of Americans live in urban areas, benefiting not only from the aesthetic appeal of urban trees, but from filtered air and reduced temperatures.

However, heat from streets, sidewalks and other surfaces can damage urban treescapes, making the selection of the right tree and right location critical. Trees planted in unsuitable areas suffer from increased stress, pest problems and reduced health.

In Florida, researchers studied the most common urban landscape elements, including roads, parking lots and buildings, and developed guidelines for landscape professionals. The guidelines focused on making informed planting decisions to maximize the performance of street trees. The research advocated using a method called “Pace to Plant,” which helps landscape professionals estimate the amount of health-impairing surfaces around a proposed planting site.

These decision-making tools will help planners and urban forest managers put the right tree in the best location. They will reduce future maintenance costs and increase tree survival. Healthy trees enhance urban forests’ ability to filter pollutants and improve air quality. They also provide shade that can reduce air conditioning demands by up to 30%.