Northern Forest Futures Project

Urban and Community Forests

[image:] urban plan with trees and a park

Urban and Community Forests

Trees and forests are resources that significantly affect the health and well-being of people who live in urban areas where more than 80 percent of the U.S. population resides. These trees within our cities and communities provide many ecosystem services and values to both urban and rural populations. Healthy urban and rural forests are critical for sustaining quality of life for people in urban areas, but many forces could change the quantity and quality of urban trees and forests in the coming decades.


Key Findings

  • From 1990 to 2000, urban land increased from 2.5 percent to 3.1 percent in the conterminous United States, and from 4.9 percent to 5.9 percent in the North.
  • By 2050, urban land is expected to increase to 8.1 percent in the conterminous United States and to 13.7 percent in the North.
  • Most of the urban expansion across the conterminous United States occurred in forests (33 percent) or agricultural land (33 percent), compared to 42 percent in agricultural land and 37 percent in forests for the North.
  • Based on projected land-use changes, overall tree cover would decrease by as much as 1.6 percent in 2060 in the conterminous United States and by as much as 1.9 percent in the North.
  • Projected changes in tree cover resulting from land-use change would be variable across the conterminous United States, with decreases in forested areas and increases in deserts, grasslands, and agricultural areas.
  • Although U.S. urban tree cover is estimated at 35 percent, a recent study revealed that 17 out of 20 cities have recently experienced statistically significant decreases in tree cover.

FromĀ Future forests of the northern United States, NRS-GTR-151, 2016.

Maps and Figures

[map:] Percentage of U.S. non-urban forest land projected to be converted to urban land, 2000 to 2050 (Nowak and Walton 2005).
Percentage of U.S. non-urban forest land projected to be converted to urban land, 2000 to 2050.
[map:] Area of U.S. non-urban forest land projected to be converted to urban land, 2000 to 2050
Area of U.S. non-urban forest land projected to be converted to urban land, 2000 to 2050

For additional detail, see Criterion 8: Urban Forests in the Future forests of the northern United States.