Communities and Landscapes of the Urban Northeast

Stewardship & Engagement

Volunteers clean up vegetation adjacent to walking trail.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. 
For example, these forests and patches require care and stewardship to do the following:

  • Remove invasive weeds and vines, to allow native trees and plants, and the birds, pollinators, and other species that depend on them to thrive.
  • Minimize and recover from the impact of invasive pests (e.g. emerald ash borer and spotted lanternfly, to name only a couple), and ensure that dead and dying trees do not pose a hazard to public safety.
  • Restore degraded streams so that the forests can act as sponges, especially during extreme weather events. 

Aside from forested areas, cities interested in achieving their urban tree canopy goals may be looking to plant thousands or hundreds of thousands of trees. Street trees typically require substantial care (watering) during their first several years, and ongoing pruning to best thrive.  No one entity or organization, even the largest city, state, or federal agencies, could hope to do everything that’s needed to help these trees, forests, and the communities that depend on them thrive. 

All of this requires stewardship, engagement, and transboundary collaboration.  The NRS-08 work unit specializes in social-ecological science, tools, and approaches to enhance stewardship awareness and capacities.  Leveraging stewardship capacity at a community or regional scale is critical to improving the health of forests and greenspace and can also be a powerful tool for building cross-sector collaboration, achieving meaningful outcomes, and fostering communities that are stronger, healthier, greener, and more resilient.

Selected Research across locations:

Selected Research anchored at a particular Urban Field Station:


Last Modified: August 6, 2019