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Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Online
Volume 47, Issue 5 — September 2021

The Effects of Residential Street Tree Spacing and Crown Interactions on Crown Dimensions and Canopy Cover

Bimal Aryal, MES, James W.N. Steenberg, PhD, and Peter N. Duinker, PhD

Abstract: Urban trees provide people with a range of ecosystem services. Trees planted along streets have been a large focus of urban forest research and practice, and municipalities invest significant resources in their survival. However, the optimal spacing of street trees is not addressed in the scientific literature, and existing municipal street tree spacing standards are highly variable and poorly enforced. In this study, we examine variability in crown shape and size for street trees to test for possible interaction effects at closer spacings. We measured variability in crown diameters both parallel and perpendicular to street tree rows to test whether changes in crown dimensions can be explained by interaction effects with neighbouring trees, and whether crown interactions lead to a reduction in total crown projection area (i.e., canopy cover). We measured the crown dimensions and diameter at breast height of 1,338 street trees in Halifax, Canada. We used two-way analysis of variance to test whether crown shape and crown projection area were affected by crown interactions and spacing. We found that the effect of narrower spacing and interactions (i.e., crowns touching/overlapping) among trees translated to crowns extending away from the direction of interaction. We also found that these changing crown dimensions were associated with increases in canopy cover. Urban forest ecosystems are a vital resource for the increasingly urban population. There is a need for empirical research on spacing standards and practices that investigate their influence on the supply of ecosystem services, such as stormwater retention, air pollution removal, and cooling.

Keywords: Canopy Cover; Competition; Ecosystem Services; Spacing; Street Trees; Tree Planting.

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