The trees that make up our urban forests along streets and rivers and in yards, campuses, and parks may face additional challenges as the climate changes.
More than 8 in 10 people in the United States live in urban areas, and these areas continue to grow. Urban forests provide benefits to the people who reside in cities, including energy conservation, aesthetics, recreation opportunities, stormwater control, and property value. We have assessed the vulnerability of urban forests to climate change and developed adaptation strategies that help maintain and improve the benefits of urban forests to people.
Effects from Climate Change
Assessing the vulnerability of urban forests may require additional considerations beyond what is typically considered for forests in rural areas. This includes not only biophysical considerations, but also the human dimensions that may influence the impacts and adaptive capacity of an urban forest.
Adaptation in Action
Adaptation strategies for urban forests will vary widely depending on geographic location, extent of development, ownership, and management goals. Adaptation strategies for urban natural areas may be similar to their rural counterparts, but may include additional considerations to account for higher fragmentation, non-native species invasion, and pollution. Strategies for developed areas, such as along streets, in yards, and on campuses, may be entirely different because the soils, species composition, and hydrology are already diverged from what had been there historically.
- This resource was created to be used with the Adaptation Workbook, a decision-support tool created for forest and ecosystem management, Forest Adaptation Resources: Climate change tools, and approaches for land managers.
Work with Us
We offer assistance on vulnerability assessments and adaptation projects for organizations managing urban forests in developed and natural settings. We have worked with municipalities, regional park districts, regional planning authorities, non-profits, public gardens and arboretums, counties, and others to develop workshops, trainings, assessments, and adaptation plans tailored to their particular needs. We are also interested in developing experimental approaches to testing adaptation strategies in urban forests in collaboration with the research community. Examples of our work include:
- Working with communities to assess the vulnerability of their urban forests to climate change.
- Providing distance learning with an urban focus.
- Organizing and facilitating workshops related to climate change impacts and ecosystem adaptation.
- Creating tools to aid adaptation of urban forests to climate change.
- Developing real-world examples of climate-informed management of urban forests.
- Chicago Wilderness Region Urban Forest Vulnerability Assessment and Synthesis
- Austin Urban Forest Vulnerability Assessment and Synthesis
- Maintaining Indiana’s Urban Green Spaces: A Report from the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment
- Lessons Learned document from the Chicago Wilderness Urban forestry Response Framework project
- Peer-reviewed article "A framework for adapting urban forests to climate change" published in Environmental Science and Policy that describes the urban framework and Chicago Wilderness project.