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Baltimore Field Station

Ecological Functions of Urban Forest Patches

Sign indicates public urban forest areaCanopy cover accounts for 27% of Baltimore City land cover, and forest patches make up 34% of that tree canopy. Along with the rest of the city’s tree canopy, forest patches provide important ecosystem services: alleviating urban heat island effect, absorbing stormwater runoff, and contributing to residents’ social and psychological well-being. They also provide food and habitat to wildlife and can provide a venue for education and community involvement. These urban forest patches occur across multiple property jurisdictions throughout Baltimore City as well as other urbanized areas within the region.

Researcher examine soils from urban forest patch.Current research by Baltimore Field Station staff investigates native tree physiology within urban forest patches of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City compared to reference forest sites outside of each city. An increased understanding of the effects of urbanization on tree growth rates and physiological functions, such as photosynthesis, respiration, water use and nutrient use, will help ensure that these forest patches continue to provide critical ecosystem services.  Furthermore, the quality and quantity of forest soil is important to provide nutrients and hold water for vegetation, to absorb storm water, and also to provide habitat for soil organisms.  A healthy soil system is better able to help vegetation fight off disease and to withstand extreme events such as drought and temperature rise.

Baltimore Field Station staff have also collaborated with Baltimore Green Space and Dr. Matthew Baker of UMBC to investigate the health and diversity of Baltimore forest vegetation and soils. Vegetation and soils have been surveyed in forested easements as well as small community managed forest patches within Baltimore City to explore the effects of patch size, edge effects, and land use legacy on urban forest structure and function. In addition to documenting the ecological functions of forest patches, Baltimore Field Station Staff are investigating stewardship and social engagement with these urban green spaces.



Templeton, L; Avins, M; Baker, M; Lautar, K; Sonti, N; Yesilonis, I. 2016. Baltimore's forest patches: a study of tree community composition and soil characteristics. Baltimore Ecosystem Study Annual Meeting, October 19-20, 2016. Cylburn Arboretum, Baltimore, MD.

Last Modified: February 9, 2017