Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Lisa Pennisi

Date of this Version



Burnham, T. (2019). Urban Forests in a Changing Environment: Motivations for Tree Planting and Perspectives of Climate Change Impacts on Urban Forests.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Lisa Pennisi. Lincoln, Nebraska: January, 2019

Copyright 2019 Tobias Burnham


Urban trees perform several ecosystem services important to humans. Climate variability and poor management threatens urban forests with ecological and socio-economic consequences. Therefore, it is critical urban trees are sustainably managed. For an urban tree management plan to succeed, social inputs at the residential scale must be taken into consideration. The aim of this research is to help inform urban forest managers of social variables that may play an integral role in successful implementation of urban forest management plans. Social factors behind home-owner decision-making to plant or remove trees in the Lincoln and Omaha metro areas show that 75% of respondents consider aesthetics as extremely important in motivating tree planting, 74% cited space availability as very or extremely important for choosing the tree species planted, and 83% responded that tree health was the most important factor for removing trees. Most common types of trees planted were maples, and the most common types of trees removed were pines. Additionally, 38.1% of respondents primarily received information about trees from the internet, and 55.7% acquired trees from nurseries. 59% of respondents agreed that changes in climate were already occurring, 46% agreed that climate change is mainly caused by humans, and 47% thought climate change will have negative consequences. Respondents generally perceive themselves as moderately knowledgeable about climate change. 72.3% of respondents are concerned about climate changes impacts on trees and 63% believe planting trees to reduce climate change is important. Overall, 59.8% are extremely likely to support more tree-planting in parks, streets, and other public places. Respondents who perceive themselves as more knowledgeable about climate change are more likely to believe that changes in climate are due to humans and the impacts will be negative. Additionally, those respondents who consider themselves more knowledgeable are also more likely to believe planting trees can reduce negative impacts, are more likely to support more tree planting in public places, and are more concerned about climate change affecting trees, compared to those who perceive themselves as less knowledgeable. Results from these studies are important for the development of sustainable management plans, and educational outreach programs related to urban tree management.

Advisor: Lisa Pennisi