Scientists & Staff

David J. Nowak

David Nowak

Senior Scientist / i-Tree Team Leader
State University of New York, College of Environmental Science & Forestry
1 Forestry Drive, 5 Moon Library
Syracuse, NY, 13210-2778
Phone: 315-448-3212

Contact David Nowak


Current Research

The goal of my research program is to investigate what makes up the vegetation in cities and town and what environmental or ecosystem services this vegetation provides to local and regional populations. The research initiates field studies and develops computer models to assess the urban forest structure, functions, and values for urban areas across the globe. One of the research goals is to integrate urban forest ecosystem services (e.g., air quality improvement) within various environmental regulations (e.g., Clean Air Act). Tools are also being developed to aid in management and planning decisions to sustain urban forest health and services. Long-term monitoring programs are investigating how and why urban forest change through time so better management plans can be developed to sustain this important resource. Specific research projects include:

  • Assessments of changes in urbanization and urban forest structure and functions nationally
  • Local assessments of urban forest structure and functions: air pollution removal; carbon storage and sequestration; biogenic emissions; building of energy conservation; water flows and water quality
  • Effects of urban forests on air and water quality
  • Long-term monitoring of urban vegetation locally and nationally (proposed Urban Forest Inventory and Analysis Program)
  • Development of i-Tree (www.itreetools.org) computer model to assess urban forest structure, function, and value
  • Functional species selection program

Research Interests

Research interests focus on urban forest change, structure, functions, and modeling of ecosystem services.

Why This Research is Important

As urbanization continues to alter our environment, the understanding and management of trees and forests in and around urban areas is essential to provide optimal forest services and values to current and future generations to sustain environmental quality, human health and human well-being.

Professional Organizations

  • International Society of Arboriculture
  • Society of American Foresters

Awards & Recognition

  • L.C. Chadwick Award for Arboricultural Research (ISA), 2015
  • R.W. Harris Author’s Citation (ISA), 2011
  • J. Sterling Morton Award (Arbor Day Foundation) , 2010
  • Research and Development Honor Award (US EPA), 2010
  • New York State Arborists, ISA Chapter Research Award, 2009
  • Trees Forever Special Recognition Award, 2009
  • Chief’s Honor Award for Engaging Urban America (i-Tree Team), 2008
  • Northern Research Station External Technology Transfer Award (Carbon Tools Development Group), 2008
  • Contributing member of Noble Peace Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007
  • Northern Research Station External Technology Transfer Award (i-Tree team), 2007
  • Distinguished Science Award for Northeastern Research Station, 2003
  • Chief’s Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer (group award for Memorial Trees), 2003
  • Chief’s Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer (group award for National Technology Transfer Te, 2003
  • State of New Jersey Green Community Achievement Award – Individual Category, 2002
  • APHIS award for outstanding contribution to the Solid Wood Packing Materials, 1999
  • American Forests Urban Forest Medal recognizing outstanding national contributions in urb.for. res., 1995
  • Freidrich U. Klaehn Memorial Award (SUNY ESF), 1985

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

This map displays the current (2017) status of urban  FIA implementation.  Inventory monitoring has begun in those cities in bold font and the year the inventory began is also indicated.

Forest Inventory and Analysis Urban Monitoring Expands to Include 26 Cities

Year: 2017

In collaboration with state and local partners, the Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIS) Program has expanded urban forest monitoring to include 26 cities. FIA recently crossed a major milestone with data collection underway in more than 25 percent of the program’s proposed cities, making urban inventories active in all four national FIA units.

Trees alter the microclimate around buildings and affect energy use.

Urban Trees Save Billions of Dollars Through Reduced Energy Costs

Year: 2017

Trees in U.S. urban and community areas reduce residential energy use by an average of 7.2 percent, which equates a national savings of $7.8 billion per year. Reduced energy use also lowers pollutant emissions from power plants, which equates to an additional $3.9 billion per year.

i-Tree user distribution by country.

i-Tree grows to more than 180,000 users in 130 countries

Year: 2017

i-Tree is a series of freely available tools that aid people in quantifying the benefits and values derived from trees and forests and in understanding local threats to forest health. Use of these tools continues to grow globally to aid in using trees to improve local environments and human health.

Urban forest species composition as a percentage of all trees, Austin, Texas. This data and more are included in FIA’s first published urban report: Austin’s Urban Forest, 2014. Tonya Lister, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Forest Inventory and Analysis is Coming to a City Near You

Year: 2016

In collaboration with state and local partners, the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA) has begun monitoring the urban forest resource with special focus on the nation’s largest cities. FIA recently completed its first urban inventory report that describes the urban forests of Austin, Texas.

Estimated removal per square kilometer of land (tonnes km2) of all pollutants (NO2, O3, PM2.5, SO2) by trees per county in 2010. USDA Forest Service

Trees Improve Human Health and Save Lives

Year: 2014

Air pollution is a serious health concern. Trees offer surfaces that remove gaseous and particulate air pollutants. Modeling of local environmental data reveals that trees removed 17.4 million metric tons of air pollution across the conterminous United States in 2010, with human health effects valued at 6.8 billion dollars. The human health effects included the avoidance of more than 850 incidences of human mortality and 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms.

Trees in New York City Central Park. Dave Nowak, USDA Forest Service

Carbon Sequestration by Urban Trees Valued in the Billions of Dollars Annually

Year: 2013

Forest Service scientists quantified carbon storage and sequestration by urban trees in the United States to assess the magnitude and role of urban forests in relation to climate change. Total tree carbon storage in U.S. urban areas (in 2005) is estimated at 643 million metric tons ($50.5 billion value), with annual carbon sequestration estimated at 25.6 million tons ($2.0 billion value).

Infestation of European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.) on left with bush honeysuckle on right. Chris Evans, River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area, Bugwood.org

Nature Dominates in City Tree Regeneration

Year: 2012

Assessment of tree planting and natural regeneration in cities reveals that most trees in cities are not planted

U.S. Urban Tree Cover Declining

Year: 2012

Analysis of aerial images reveals that U.S. urban areas are losing about 20,000 acres of tree cover per year

Urban and Community Forest Summaries for the Lower 48 States

Year: 2010

NRS scientist David Nowak and others have recently published several important summaries of tree and forest information.

Last modified: Wednesday, October 04, 2017