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Finding Urban Trees for a Changing World

Trees planted in cities face many survival challenges, but when they thrive they make our cities healthier, less hot, and more beautiful. Historically, professionals have planted the same familiar trees over and over in cities since they are a safe bet, which results in a vulnerable, low diversity urban forest. To add new tree species to the urban forest, especially in the face of climate change, we need to understand what characteristics make the best trees and how professionals balance conflicting selection criteria. For example, if no “perfect” tree exists, are people willing to plant a messy tree that will provide several other benefits? Also, we need to understand how professionals share information with each other about trees to identify ways for people to work together better.

We found that professionals prefer tough trees, professionals need clearer information on which trees provide more benefits, there is lots of disagreement on whether certain trees are good to plant, public gardens may have information to share on new/rare tree species, and a lot of obstacles get in the way of choosing trees that meet biodiversity goals and provide the most benefits.