A review of factors that affect the static load-bearing capacity of urban trees

Gregory A. Dahle, Kenneth R. James, Brian Kane, Jason C. Grabosky, Andreas Detter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Over the last 30 years, researchers have begun to employ biomechanical principles to understand the stability of urban trees. This review concentrates on literature pertaining to trees in temperate urban landscapes, but also includes relevant work from other disciplines and climates as appropriate. The load-bearing capacity of a tree depends on its size and shape and the material properties of its wood. As the trunk and branches increase in diameter, their load-bearing capacity increases. Material properties (e.g., moduli of elasticity and rupture) describe intrinsic wood stiffness and strength, which influence deflection under load and load-bearing capacity, respectively. In wood, material properties vary in relation to a variety of factors, including the direction of loading, moisture content, and tree age. Wood decay reduces a tree's load-bearing capacity. Although practitioners have developed guidelines to assess its effect, existing guidelines should be investigated, refined or rejected on the basis of rigorous scientific testing. Static load tests have been developed to address this question, as well as investigate the likelihood of uprooting, which accounts for up to 35% of tree failures. While much has been learned, many questions remain about the static load-bearing capacity of trees growing in urban landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-106
Number of pages18
JournalArboriculture and Urban Forestry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Ecology


  • Allometry
  • Biomechanics
  • Decay
  • Literature Review
  • Material Properties
  • Modulus of Elasticity
  • Modulus of Rupture
  • Soil-Root Plate
  • Static Load Tests


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