Patterns of Urban Forest Composition in Utah’s Growing Mountain Communities

Anne Thomas


Urban forests are an important element of the water budget in developing Western cities. Afforestation and its effect on the water budget are largely contingent on planting decisions made by planners and residents. The objective of this study was to characterize these decisions by identifying differences in tree community composition between four classes of neighborhoods from distinct developmental periods for Heber Valley, Utah. Public housing data and visual development characteristics were used to categorize residential and commercial areas, and standard forestry techniques were used to collect data on trees in a stratified random survey of lots in these categories. Older, established housing had the highest tree basal area and species richness per hectare, and exurban (rural, dispersed housing) developments also had significantly higher species diversity than new tract housing. Because it appears that exurban communities are being replaced by tract housing, there is evidence that tree diversity will be lost. Another important aspect of community structure in urban forests is the ratio of conifers to broadleaf trees because of fundamental differences in water use patterns. Twenty-five percent of the basal area in exurban and thirty-five percent in established neighborhoods was that of conifers, as opposed to five percent in tract. The data suggest that tree diversity is likely to decrease while water demand is likely to increase with changes in urban forests in the coming decade.


Urban forestry, development, water use

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