- We provide a global outlook on protecting and retaining trees on private urban land.
- We used literature and case study reviews, and views of local and international urban forest professionals.
- Innovative cities combined policies, planning schemes, local laws, and financial incentives.
- Incentivising positive behavior and implementing a “pay first” principle may be useful.
- Engaging community and fostering collective stewardship is also useful.
Most studies of urban forest management look at vegetation on public land. Yet, to meet ambitious urban forest targets, cities must attempt to maintain or increase trees and canopy cover on private urban land too. In this study, we review and evaluate international approaches to protecting and retaining trees on private urban land. Our study combines a systematic academic literature review, two empirical social science studies on the views of urban forest professionals, and a global case study review of innovative regulations and incentives aimed at protecting and retaining trees on private urban land. Case studies were evaluated for the extent they exceeded minimum standards or went beyond ‘business-as-usual’. We found that the most innovative mechanisms combine many regulations, instead of relying on a single regulation, and use financial incentives to retain or plant trees in newly developed or re-developed sites, as well as private residences. We did not find any cases where appropriate monitoring was in place to determine the efficacy and efficiency of these mechanisms. We also found no single simple solution that could effectively and efficiently protect and retain trees on private land. Only by combining policies, planning schemes, local laws, and financial incentives with community engagement and stewardship will cities protect and retain trees on private land. Useful and innovative ways to protecting and retaining trees on private land involves providing solutions at multiple governments levels, embedding trees in existing strategic policy and management solutions, incentivising positive behavior, creating regulations that require payment up front, and engaging the broader community in private tree stewardship.