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Urban forestry is broadly defined as the management of trees, shrubs and other vegetation in urban areas. It focuses on the “forest” or larger population of trees rather than individual trees along streets, in parks and open spaces and within commercial, industrial and residential properties. Trees in cities are a major component of the green infrastructure, the natural resources upon which the city relies. Trees and the urban forest provide many benefits in urban areas, both direct and indirect. This includes environmental improvements, aesthetic enhancements, psychological and social benefits and economic savings. Trees also have costs associated with planting and maintaining them and many challenges involved in growing healthy trees in complex, and often unnatural, urban environments. Although our urban forest can most definitely be considered an asset, when not properly cared for and managed, it can also become a liability.

A city’s urban forest consists of all trees and vegetation located throughout the local government area; irrespective of the tree species origin (native, exotic), location (street, park, garden, school) or ownership (public, private, institutional). The urban forest, measured as a canopy cover percentage of the total land area, is recognized as a primary component of the urban ecosystem. It is one component of a complex built environment that includes roads, car parks, footpaths, underground services, buildings and other structures. Urban forestry can be described as the science and art of managing trees, forests and natural ecosystems in and around urban communities to maximize the physiological, sociological, economic and aesthetic benefits that trees provide society (Schwab 2008).

The term ‘forestry’ understandably evokes a certain image or connotation in most peoples’ minds. To be clear, urban forestry is not the planting of trees in the city for timber, it is not connected to the management of the national parks and state forests located in the greater metropolitan area, nor is it converting our parks and sport fields into forests.

Last Updated: September 17, 2014

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