Communities and Landscapes of the Urban Northeast
This unit focuses on the communities and landscapes of the urban northeast. This geography is linked by common aspects of culture, history, climate, and ecology, all of which inform our unit’s interdisciplinary nature. Our four primary locations are anchored by sites that are a part of the larger Urban Field Station Network:
These sites encompass the urban, urbanizing, and urban-interface landscapes of the highly-developed and densely populated northeastern corridor of the U.S. The connectedness and comingling of forests, forest patches, and society is perhaps nowhere as pronounced as in the urban northeast. The eastern U.S. is comprised of almost a million forest “patches” –smaller forests in human dominated landscapes that serve as most peoples’ primary experience of forests. This reality informs the emphasis on social-ecology and co-production of scientific information that is the core of our unit’s DNA. This landscape also serves as a learning lab for other geographies, including the National Forests that face parallel pressures related to urbanization, development, fragmentation, and intense recreation. Our unit is at the forefront of co-developing tools and processes that have cross-over benefits to more rural communities, and co-applying them with our more rurally-based stakeholders and with the National Forest System.
All of the Unit’s research is tied to three dominant and interrelated themes or Research Focus Areas:
Trees, tree canopy, other vegetation, and greenspace are critical resources in urban areas, towns, and communities that significantly affect everything from environmental quality and human health to economics, resilience, crime, and more. The urban northeast is a landscape of over a million forests. These smaller forested lots, or forest “patches” (which might range in size from a small parking lot or smaller to several acres or more), constitute most peoples’ experience and understanding of nature and ecology, and this is what can affect whether and how people value the conservation and care of natural landscapes – all of which has implications for sustainability, resilience, human health, and much more.
A common misconception is that forests, forest patches, and even street trees can take care of themselves. Another misconception, especially in urban nature, is that if it’s green it must be good. Our forests and forest patches have been heavily affected by human influence and impact; especially within the last several decades, non-native pests and diseases inadvertently introduced through global trade and other means have created ecosystems that are green but marginally or minimally functional in terms of ecological processes, supporting biodiversity, and being resilient to climate change.
There are many ways that our individual and community health and well-being are affected and underpinned by relation and access to trees, forests, and greenspace, and how these factors in turn influence our relationship to each other. There are myriad ways that trees and stewardship are linked to public health.