A New Method for Streamlining Tree Selection in New York City

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Read on for the full story behind this biotopes flow chart (and a bigger version of the chart).

We can count on our NYC urban forestry colleagues to be constantly innovating. This article by NYC Urban Forester and NYSUFC Executive Committee Member David Moore first appeared in City Trees, the magazine of the Society of Municipal Arborists. It generated a lot of positive feedback.

In the article, he shares how the New York City Parks Department streamlined its system for making tree species selections for 25,000 street tree plantings a year. Moore says, “We hope that our system provides useful insights that can be adapted and customized to the needs of other cities undertaking street tree planting.” A municipality of any size can use this article to think strategically about their tree selection process. 

Background
The MillionTreesNYC initiative was catalyzed by research that shows on average, New York City street trees currently return $5.60 to the community for every $1 spent on management.1 In the course of fulfilling the mission of MillionTreesNYC, NYC Parks Department foresters are tasked with designing planting spaces and selecting tree species for each site, then overseeing construction and community engagement.

Two factors that affect plant selection in NYC: to guarantee biodiversity, we use over 250 different tree species, cultivars, and selections grown under contract by tree nurseries in the region. Second, the planting sites that we survey have varying environmental constraints.

Selection can be a simple task on a tree-by-tree basis, but this is not efficient when it comes to making thousands of selections per season. We needed a decision making protocol to ensure consistency and accuracy throughout the urban forestry program, while considering the reality of our foresters’ time constraints. We also wanted to optimize the net benefits of our tree plantings by systematically maximizing each planting site’s potential.

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