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Northern Research Station
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
(610) 557-4132 TTY/TDD

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Urban Forests, Environmental Quality and Human Health

Research Work Unit NRS-08

[photo:] Sears Tower, Chicago through tree branchesUrban vegetation and its management can significantly influence human health and environmental quality in and around cities. Thus, optimal vegetation designs and management practices are essential to sustain human and environmental well-being for current and future generations. To this end, forest and community managers need accurate information on the urban forest resource, how it is changing, and the ecosystem services it provides. Decision-making tools are also necessary to guide management and policies related to improving ecosystem services provided by trees.

[photo:]Mature London Planetrees shade attached row houses in Baltimore, MDResearchers at the USDA Forest Service Lab in Syracuse, NY, work with numerous cooperators to: 1) quantify urban forest structure (e.g., number of trees, species composition), 2) determine how urban forest structure and its management affect ecosystem services (e.g., air and water quality, carbon sequestration, air temperatures, soil-nutrient cycling) and 3) develop appropriate vegetation management strategies and tools to improve urban natural resources stewardship and consequently human health and environmental quality in urban and urbanizing areas.

[image:] Logo for the Balitmore Ecosystem Study Long-term research projectUnit scientists are principal investigators on one of the first National Science Foundation funded urban long-term ecosystem research (LTER) projects. On this project in Baltimore, a team of researchers investigate the long-term effects of urban vegetation on city ecosystem processes. Much of our research in this Baltimore Ecosystem Study monitors long-term tower measurements of carbon dioxide flux, water flows and vegetation in Baltimore to help understand how urban vegetation is changing and its impacts on environmental quality and human health.

Research Topics

We research:

Urban Forests - What are urban forests and how do they vary through time and space from the local to national scale?

We research how urban trees and forests affect:

Atmospheric Quality – How do varying amounts of vegetation cover, species, and locations affect air pollution, greenhouse gases, air temperatures, ultraviolet radiation and building energy use?

Water Flows and Quality – How do varying amounts of vegetation and impervious cover, species, and locations affect stream flow and water quality?

Soil Quality and Nutrient Cycling – How do urban soils vary across urban areas; how does urbanization and vegetation management affect soil properties and nutrient cycling; and how do these soil properties affect tree health?

We develop tools to assess:

Ecosystem Services and Values – these tools aid local users in assessing their urban forest and associated ecosystem services.

Last Modified: 11/09/2012

Urban Forests:

Learn about our new Philadelphia Urban Field Station

Computer Tools

UFORE logoUrban Forest Effects (UFORE) Model - A computer program designed to allow users to collect local data and analyze their urban forest composition, ecosystem services, and values.

iTree logoi-Tree - A suite of urban forest analysis software to aid managers and the public in assessing and managing their urban forest ecosystem (via the UFORE model) and street tree populations.