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Resilience of urban trees to a changing climate

Home research Urban trees and greenspace in a changing climate Resilience of urban trees to a changing climate


This project aimed to investigate drought stress as a threat to urban trees in future climates.

Research objectives

  • Develop a drought tolerance index for the most prominent urban species
  • Review how provenance/genetic variation can affect drought tolerance of selected species
  • Highlight at risk areas/species under different drought and flood scenarios; and demonstrate the impact of these scenarios on the environmental and economic benefit provided by the urban forest

Findings and Recommendations

  • Water stress contributes to the high tree mortality rates experienced in urban areas. This gives rise to direct costs due to replacement, and indirect ones linked to the loss of ecosystem services delivery.
  • There is limited knowledge on how different species rate in their tolerance to successive drought events. This is needed especially for those commonly used in UK street plantings, to guide both species selection and watering regimes.
  • This study found that, for young specimens of several broadleaf tree species, drought response varied as a result of prior exposure to drought.
  • Populus tremuloides and Robinia pseudoacacia showed the greatest negative response during the first drought cycle, and had to be excluded from a second cycle.
  • All other species investigated showed a greater response in the second cycle than in the first one (particularly Betula pendula, Quercus robur and Acer platanoides).
  • The results found that tree species differ in their suitability to be used in water restrictive urban sites.


Vaz Monteiro, M., Doick, K.J., Lawrence, V., Albertini, A. Handley, P. (2017). Investigation into the drought tolerance of broadleaf street trees using chlorophyll fluorescence. ISHS Acta Horticulturae. 1189, 427-430. 

Ashwood, R., Albertini, A., Doick, K.J. (2015) Best Practice Guidance Note for Land Regeneration No. 20: Drought Tolerant Tree Species and Land Regeneration. Forest Research, Farnham, 4pp.


Kieron Doick