The early years: An analysis of street tree mortality and survival in New York City

2007 | Brian McGrath, Columbia University, Erika Svendsen and Lindsay Cambell, USDA Forest
Service, and Jason Grabosky, Rutgers University

In dense metropolitan areas, there are many factors including traffic congestion, building development and social organizations that may impact the health of street trees. The focus of this study is to better understand how social, biological and urban design factors affect the mortality rates of newly planted street trees. Prior analyses of street trees planted by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation between 1999 and 2003 (n=45,094) found 91.3% of those trees were alive after two years and 8.7% were either standing dead or missing completely. Using a site assessment tool, a randomly selected sample of 13,405 of these trees was surveyed throughout the City of New York during the summers of 2006 and 2007. Overall, 74.3% of the sample trees were alive when surveyed and the remainder were either standing dead or missing. Results of our initial analyses reveal that highest mortality rates occur within the first few years after planting, and that land use has a significant effect on street tree mortality. Trees planted in one- and two-family residential areas had the highest survival rates (82.7%), while young street trees planted in industrial areas, open space and vacant land had the lowest rates of street tree survival (60.3% -62.9%). Also significant in predicting street tree success and failure are species type, tree pit enhancements, direct tree care/stewardship, and local traffic conditions. These results are intended to inform urban forest managers in making decisions about the best conditions for planting new street trees.

Year: 2007

Funding Duration: 3-5 years

Grant Program: Hyland Johns

Grant Title: The Early Years: An Analysis of Street Tree Mortality and Survival in New York City

Researcher: Jennifer Greenfeld

Key words: urban trees; establishment; street trees; mortality

Peer Reviewed Publications from Grant:

  • Lu, J.W.T., E.S. Svendsen, L.K. Campbell, J. Greenfeld, J. Braden, K.L. King, N. Falxa-Raymond. 2010. Biological, social, and urban design factors affecting young street tree mortality in New York City. Cities and the Environment. 3(1): article 5, 15pp. View the Publication

General Audience/Trade Publications: none

Presentations: none

For more information on this project, contact the researcher via TREE Fund at