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Urban Natural Resources Stewardship

Private Lands, Forest Stewardship, and Residential Greening

Research Issue

[photo:] A rooftop view from East Baltimore. Photo Credit: Morgan Grove, US Forest ServiceInnovative research from the Baltimore Field Station has examined variations in patterns of existing and possible tree canopy cover relative to different social theories. Private, residential patterns of vegetation, reflecting the consumption of environmentally relevant goods and services, are associated with different lifestyles and lifestages. These findings may have policy implications. Decision makers may need to consider how to most effectively reach different social groups in terms of messages and messengers in order to advance land management practices and achieve urban sustainability.

Our Research

Ongoing research examines the processes leading to current patterns of tree canopy cover utilizing public records, policy analyses, administrative data, a geodemographic market segmentation database, and high-resolution land cover data, across urban, suburban, and rural settings.

Substantial areas of forest persist both inside and outside of formal protected areas or parks, across a variety of public, private and community land ownerships. In both Baltimore City and surrounding counties, substantial forest cover remains, although patches may be small or divided among multiple owners. Across such a diverse backdrop of forest owners, we seek to understand how and why forest cover is maintained and managed when it lacks formal protection and management. What are the roles of formal and informal institutions, such as land-use planning, homeowners associations, and citizen management? We also seek to better understand both ecological functions of forest patches and community stewardship or engagement with these urban green spaces.

At the level of the individual homeowner, residential greening activities can help maintain forest cover, and provide ecological, economic, and social benefits to homeowners. Our research has assessed a common program promoting residential greening—tree giveaways or tree planting programs. We examine where these programs work, who participates in these programs, and whom the programs fail to reach. Recruiting households to plant trees can be hard work. Recent findings show that programs might be most successful where it is easiest but have the lowest need. Free or reduced-cost programs for tree planting on private lands were most effective in the most affluent neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD. These areas tended to also have the most existing tree canopy on both private residential lands and the public right of way. An outcome of this research is a framework for further testing which land management strategies are most effective, where, and with whom in order to improve the ability to plan and enhance urban sustainability and resilience through urban forestry.

Research Results

Nguyen VD; Roman, LA; Locke, DH; Mincey, SK; Sanders, JR; Smith Fichman, E; Duran-Mitchell, M; Lumban Tobing, S. 2017. Branching out to residential lands: missions and strategies of five tree distribution programs in the U.S. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 22: 24-35.

Groffman, P. M., Grove, J. M., Polsky, et al. 2016. Satisfaction, water and fertilizer use in the American residential macrosystem. Environmental Research Letters11(3), 34004.

Polsky, C., Grove, J. M., Knudson, et al. 2014. Assessing the homogenization of urban land management with an application to US residential lawn careProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences111(12), 4432–4437.

Locke, D.H.; Grove, J.M. 2015. A Market Analysis of Opt-In Tree Planting and Rain Barrel Installation in Baltimore, MD, 2008—2012. (pdf) US Forest Service. 6 pp.

Battaglia, Michael; Buckley, Geoffrey L.; Galvin, Michael; Grove, Morgan. 2014. It's not easy going green: Obstacles to tree-planting programs in East Baltimore. Cities and the Environment (CATE). 7(2):6.

Grove, J. Morgan; Locke, Dexter H.; O’Neil-Dunne, Jarlath PM.  2014. An ecology of prestige in New York City: examining the relationships among population density, socio-economic status, group identity, and residential canopy cover. Environmental management 54(3): 402-419.

Locke, Dexter H.; Grove, J. Morgan. 2014. Doing the Hard Work Where it’s Easiest? Examining the Relationships Between Urban Greening Programs and Social and Ecological Characteristics. Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy: 1-20.

Chowdhury, Rinku Roy; Larson, Kelli; Grove, Morgan; Polsky, Colin; Cook, Elizabeth; Onsted, Jeffrey; Ogden, Laura. 2011. A multi-scalar approach to theorizing socio-ecological dynamics of urban residential landscapesCities and the Environment (CATE)4(1), 1–19.

Boone, C. G.; Cadenasso, Mary L.; Grove, J. Morgan; Schwartz, Kirsten; Buckley, Geoffrey L. 2010. “Landscape, vegetation characteristics, and group identity in an urban and suburban watershed: why the 60s matter.” Urban Ecosystems 13(3): 255-271.

Buckley, G.L. 2010. America’s Conservation Impulse: A Century of Saving Trees in the Old Line State.  Chicago: Columbia College and the Center for American Places.

Zhou, Weiqi; Troy, Austin; Grove, J. Morgan; Jenkins, Jennifer C. 2009. Can money buy green? Demographic and socioeconomic predictors of lawn-care expenditures and lawn greenness in urban residential areas. Society and Natural Resources. 22: 744-760.

Boone, C.G.; Buckley, G.L.; Grove, J.M.; Sister, C. 2009. “Parks & People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99(3):767-787.

Grove, J.M.; Troy, A.R.; O'Neil-Dunne, J.P.M.; Burch, W.R., Jr.; Cadenasso, M.L., Jr..; Pickett, S.T.A.; Pickett, S.T.A. 2006. Characterization of Households and its Implications for the Vegetation of Urban Ecosystems. Ecosystems. 9: 578-597.

Buckley, G.B.; Grove, J.M.. 2001. “Sowing the Seeds of Forest Conservation: Fred Besley and the Maryland Story, 1906-1923.” Journal Article. Maryland Historical Society 96 (3): 303–27.

Research Participants

Last Modified: February 8, 2017