Urban trees provide important ecosystem services, across ownership and governance structures, and tree inventories are an important tool enabling urban foresters and green space managers to monitor and perform the sustainable management of urban trees. For optimal management of urban trees, a better understanding is needed concerning how urban tree inventories can provide long-term monitoring overviews across administrative borders, and how inventory protocols should be adapted to address specific practitioner issues. In this review, 98 articles on urban tree inventories were examined, the primary focus being sampling design. A governance arrangement approach was applied to identify the policy-making arrangements behind the inventories. Stratification is commonly used in the sampling design, despite being problematic for long-term representativeness. Only 10% of the stratification sampling designs identified were considered as having long-term validity. The studies frequently relied on an individual sampling design aimed at a particular issue, as opposed to using an existing longitudinal sampling network. Although private trees can constitute over 50% of the urban tree population, 41% of the studies reviewed did not include private trees at all. Urban tree inventories focused primarily on tree data on a local scale. Users or private tree owners are commonly not included in these studies, and limited attention is paid to economic, cultural or social factors. A long-term validation of sampling methods in urban areas, and a multi-lateral approach to tree inventories, are needed to maintain long-term operational value for local managers in securing ecosystem service provisions for entire urban forests.
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