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Public satisfaction with urban trees and their management: the roles of values, beliefs, knowledge, and trust

Kendal D, Ordóñez C, Davern M, Fuller RA, Hochuli DF, van der Ree R, Livesley SJ & Threlfall CG (2022) Public satisfaction with urban trees and their management: the roles of values, beliefs, knowledge, and trust. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 73, 127623.

The success of urban forest management strategies is dependent on public support for and engagement with urban trees. Satisfaction with urban trees and their management, and the level of trust people have in urban tree managers, are useful for understanding public opinions. Yet these concepts, and the mechanisms leading to the formation of public opinions remain poorly explored in the literature. Here we explore how satisfaction with urban trees and with urban tree management, and trust in the agencies responsible for urban tree management, are explained by cognitive factors (values, beliefs, and knowledge) and socio-ecological contextual factors (tree presence/canopy cover, cultural diversity, and socioeconomic status) using an online survey of 16 local government areas in south-eastern Australia. Analyses of 2367 responses revealed that people’s opinions about trees in general (values and beliefs) were overwhelmingly positive, while their opinions about more contextualised measures such as satisfaction and trust were more mixed. Two distinct pathways that influence satisfaction were identified: one linked to beliefs about having trees in cities, and another one linked to trust in urban tree management. At the local government level, satisfaction was negatively associated with a measure of cultural diversity and very low levels of tree canopy cover, but not with socioeconomic disadvantage. Satisfaction with local trees could be improved by increasing the quality of ecological function of trees, such as habitat provision and tree diversity. Community engagement could also improve satisfaction and trust, particularly perceived procedural fairness of decision-making, reinforce positive beliefs about the outcomes of having trees in cities, and dispel negative beliefs. Engagement processes should recognise that people hold complex and diverse opinions about urban trees, and by incorporating these opinions into decision-making we can meet the increasingly complex and diverse expectations being placed on urban forests.

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