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DBH Distributions in America's Urban Forests—An Overview of Structural Diversity

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Morgenroth, Justin ; Nowak, David J.; Koeser, Andrew K.

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Background and Objectives: The structural diversity of an urban forest affects ecosystem service provision, and can inform management, planning, as well as policy. Trunk diameter at breast height (DBH) is amongst the most common measures of tree structure due to its ease of measurement and strong relationships with other structural and non-structural urban forest characteristics. Materials and Methods: In this study, the DBH distributions of urban forests are summarised for 38 American cities with a combined population of over 30 million people and a range of geographic, climatic, and demographic conditions. The Anderson–Darling (AD) test was used to test the hypothesis that all DBH distributions came from a common population. Moreover, structural diversity was compared using the Shannon–Wiener index. Results: The AD test results failed to identify any statistically significant differences in DBH distributions. However, qualitatively, the DBH distributions have two primary forms, which have important functional, management, and planning implications. The vast majority of cities have an exponentially inverseproportional distribution, such that the proportion of trees in each successively larger DBH class decreases exponentially. The Shannon–Wiener index indicates an uneven DBH distribution in the cities with an exponentially inverse-proportional diameter distribution; these cities are dominated by trees in the smallest diameter class. Potential explanations for a large proportion of trees in the smallest diameter classes include a large number of small, naturally regenerating trees; a preference for smaller trees in urban areas; or a recent increase in tree planting efforts. Conclusions: Despite no statistical differences in DBH distributions for the 38 study cities, the functional, management, and planning implications will differ considerably.


cities; diameter at breast height; forest structure; i-tree; trees; urban forest inventory


Morgenroth, Justin; Nowak, David J.; Koeser, Andrew K. 2020. DBH Distributions in America's Urban Forests—An Overview of Structural Diversity. Forests. 11(2): 135. 12 p.

Last updated on: February 3, 2020