Urban Forests

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Management of Urban Forests

Urban forests are the trees and treed environments in both urban and rural communities, on both public and private lands. Urban forests include trees in parks, yards, along pathways, boulevards, roads, other green spaces, natural areas and in some communities, local working forests. Urban forests are a key asset in supporting more livable, healthy, sustainable and economically vibrant communities.

A healthy urban forest is one of the only municipal capital investments that will appreciate in value over time. 

ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability

Trees are a valuable part of the communities’ infrastructure and they return $2–$5 in benefits for every dollar invested in them.  Trees also play an important role as integrated components of land use, infrastructure and utilities planning.

Trees and treed landscapes provide co-benefits that support climate change mitigation (reducing emissions by absorbing and sequestering GHG) and adaptation (providing shade, cooling, deflecting strong wind, and improving air quality.)

Urban forests help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and can be used to manage some of the impacts of a changing climate in the following ways:

  • Trees store and sequester carbon. Large healthy trees (over 75 cm diameter) sequester 90 times more carbon annually than small trees (less than 10 cm diameter).
  • Trees reduce energy consumption, and thus the consumption of fossil fuels. Energy reductions come from:
    • shading that reduces air conditioning needs and protects pavement;
    • windbreaks that reduce heating costs;
    • canopy cover that reduces storm water volume; and
    • food growing and pedestrian friendly environments that both reduce transportation fuel consumption.
  • Trees improve air quality. Shade trees reduce temperatures, slowing the formation of ground level ozone (smog). Tree leaves absorb airborne pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, as well as filtering particulate matter from the air.  A mature tree absorbs 54–110 kg of small particles and gases of air pollution each year.
  • Trees can help communities adapt to climate change impacts. Carefully chosen and placed trees can reduce summer heating impacts, absorb and slow water from rainstorms, and buffer wind storms.

Community Examples

  • The Central Okanagan Regional District used ecosystem mapping (TEM) 
  • The City of Kelowna has a Neighbourwoods program to fund tree planting on private property
  • The District of Chetwynd seedlings from sawmill planted by community groups
  • The City of Victoria grows ornamental banana trees