Trees’ Benefit to You, Campus, & Our Communities

On Pitt’s campuses, trees provide important benefits to our community and the environment!

Pitt’s Tree Goals

In 2018, the University’s Pittsburgh campus set a goal of increasing tree canopy 50% by 2030.  Increased tree canopy will contribute to Pitt’s broader stewardship impact area, along with stormwater management, ecosystem support, and mental health benefits.

Our Pittsburgh and Johnstown campuses are pursuing Tree Campus Higher Education designations from the Arbor Day Foundation. 

New tree species planted are selected following the university-wide Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines. These guidelines strive to improve the health and wellbeing of our community by promoting biodiversity, integrating nature into our urban landscape, and creating synergy between the built and natural environment.


Pitt’s Tree Success

  • Tree canopy on Pitt-Johnstown Campus

    The University of Pittsburgh’s main campus completed a tree inventory in 2019, documenting nearly 4,000 trees of diverse species and maturities that provided 29.95 acres of tree canopy coverage in 2019.

  • Pitt Bradford got its first  Tree Campus USA designation in 2015.
  • Pitt Johnstown campus is a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, the first university campus in Pennsylvania and the eighth nationally to earn this certification.
  • The University of Pittsburgh’s Pittsburgh campus achieved Tree Campus Higher Education status in March 2022.
  • Campus Tree Advisory Committees on both the Pittsburgh and Bradford campuses work toward maintaining the beauty of the campus landscape, while protecting the environment and fostering conservation efforts within the community via the long-term preservation and expansion of tree canopy.

Benefits of Urban Trees

  • Trees protect biodiversity by providing shelter to migrating birds and pollinators. (Mendenhall et al. 2016).
  • Increased tree canopy can help cities manage stormwater, flooding, and preventing waterway pollution. (EPA).
  • By improving air quality, trees help to reduce rates of asthma, cardiac disease, and strokes. (Nowak, 2002).
  • A single tree is capable of filtering up to 1/3 of fine particle pollutants within a 300 yard radius.(The Nature Conservancy).

    Source: The Nature Conservancy

  • Trees help to reduce energy use and prevent heat-related deaths by cooling street temperatures by 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit. (Arbor Day Foundation).
  • Trees can enhance views and provide areas of refuge in warmer months.  (EPA).
  • Trees can contribute to reduced obesity levels by increasing outdoor physical activity. (Ulmer et al. 2016).
  • More trees means increased property values. (Wolf 2007).
  • Trees help interrupt thought patterns associated with anxiety or depression. (Astell-Burt & Feng 2019).
  • Creating healthy urban tree canopies can help address environmental injustices and racial disparities by improving local air quality and reduce urban heat island effects found to disproportionately impact BIPOC communities (1, 2,3, 4).

Pitt’s Tree Requirements

Maintaining existing trees and adding new trees is essential to reaching our goal of increasing tree canopy 50% by 2030.   As part of the campus master plan, Pitt is exploring creative opportunities to increase tree canopy on- and off-campus, including on hillsides, rooftops, streets, and more.  As part of our Institutional Master Plan, the University has committed to:

  • Protecting significant trees during renovations, infill development, and greenfield construction
    •  Tree roots, trunks, and canopies should be well outside of the limits of development.
    •  Tree protection fences should be utilized around the trees predicted root zone extents.
    • Construction entrances should be planned to avoid tree stands
  • All new site designs should consider pervious or permeable pavements to promote extended root systems for trees
  • Landscape designs should locate shade trees away from paved surfaces to encourage maturation of tree heights and canopies
  • Partnering with Oakland community and groups to replant street trees
  • Monitoring health of significant trees on campus
    • Utilize GIS data to identify trees susceptible to current and possible diseases, pests, and fungi.
    • Propose treatments for trees that are in poor health
    • Remove trees if diseases are highly contagious.
  • Planting new shade trees at a spacing that factors in mature canopy size.  Trees will compete for root and canopy space if planted too close together.
  • Requiring designers to maintain a percentage of existing canopy and propose a percentage that aligns with the goal of increasing net tree canopy, while referencing the University’s Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines and the Institutional Master Plan.

For more details, check out the Pitt’s Pittsburgh Campus Tree Care Plan, or learn more about all of Pitt’s stewardship efforts by checking out the Pitt Sustainability Plan!