The concentrations of Cd, Pb, Zn and Ni were measured in the leaves of 7 species of deciduous trees, from the urban sites of Istanbul, in both the Spring and Autumn seasons. We detected some differences in the heavy metal concentrations of the control and urban site samples of identical species. Highest concentrations of Cd were detected in Populus, Pb in Aesculus and Robinia, Zn in Populus, and Ni in Robinia and Fraxinus. Lowest chlorophyll content and highest peroxidase (POD) activity was found in the urban site samples of Acer. We have found a positive correlation between the increase in the POD activity and the Pb concentration in Populus. Generally, the tree species investigated in this study, are considered to have different tolerance levels to heavy metal pollution. The data obtained show that the chlorophyll content and the POD activity may be used as heavy metal stress biomarkers in the urban trees. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.