09 July 2012

Urban Forest

Definition: The patchwork quilt of forested spaces one finds in the midst of the built environment, stretching from the downtown core to the suburban periphery.

Examples: We typically associate trees and forests with rural locales, not urban areas. Yet cities in the United States are often heavily forested, with tree canopy covering, on average, more than a quarter of urban land.  Trees that grow along streets, as well as in parks, backyards, school playgrounds, vacant lots, cemeteries, and other urban “open spaces” make up the urban forest.  Sometimes the urban forest is comprised of little more than residual vegetation or “opportunistic volunteers.”  More often, however, trees are planted and maintained for a purpose, whether it is aesthetic, social, cultural, or ecological.

Increasingly, we value urban trees for the many and varied services they provide to urban dwellers.  In 2006, officials in Baltimore announced plans to double the city’s tree canopy in the next 30 years.

Trees can be found in abundance in urban as well as rural areas.  

Why Important: Among other things, trees provide shade, filter pollutants, store and sequester carbon dioxide, reduce summertime air temperatures, reduce runoff rates and flooding, impede erosion, improve storm sewer capacity, and provide habitat for plants and animals.

Contributed by BES Co-PI Geoffrey L. Buckley

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