Research in urban forestry: Identified needs in Canada

Adrina C. Bardekjian, MFC, PhD

Dr. Adrina C. Bardekjian, MFC, PhD, Manager, Urban Forestry Programs and Research Development Dre. Adrina C. Bardekjian, MFC, Ph.D., Gestionnaire des programmes forestiers urbains et du développement de la recherche

Dr. Adrina C. Bardekjian, MFC, PhD, Urban Forestry, Program Manager
Dr. Adrina C. Bardekjian, MFC, PhD, Manager, Urban Forestry Programs and Research Development

As part of my work with Tree Canada in directing the Canadian Urban Forest Strategy (CUFS), our current efforts under the Research Working Group (WG3) include developing partnerships with national organizations on a variety of projects to tackle urban forestry questions. Tree Canada focuses on urban forestry at the national level and the Canadian Urban Forest Network (CUFN) and Strategy (CUFS) are programs by which many identified needs are being operationalized. Recently, I have had many inquires about research needs in Canada.

While there are online sources of information to procure this knowledge, I want to take the opportunity to share some results of a report we conducted. In 2015, Tree Canada conducted a national urban forestry needs assessment for Canadian municipalities (Bardekjian, Rosen & Kenney, 2015). In addition to collecting information on budgets and plans, content of the survey captured:

  • Level of importance placed on external partnerships (42% of respondents indicated that their partnerships were comprised of other levels of government);
  • Methods for engaging citizens in urban forestry (62% of respondents indicated that tree-planting events were their go-to approach);
  • Pressures and obstacles facing urban forests (urban development, 35%, and lack of planning, 23%; and
  • Research needs (both applied and social)

With respect to research needs, the top three identified applied science research needs were: developing better urban soil conditions; improving resilience to pests and diseases; and better identifying urban tree species for climate adaptation. The top three identified social science research needs were: exploring community perspectives; exploring multi-purpose greenspaces; and analyzing and advocating for public health benefits of trees.

To provide an effective response to these identified needs, results revealed that better communication is needed to share knowledge and vision for future collaboration. In addition, better collaboration between research institutions, municipalities and communities can nurture stronger awareness for social inquiry that can impact community stewardship. Thus, addressing identified research needs can improve the connection between research and practice (Bardekjian, Rosen & Kenney, 2015).

More recently, in a series of e-lectures hosted in November in partnership with the Canadian Institute of Forestry, Jacques Larouche from Laval University presented some of his results of a comprehensive national research survey that he conducted for this Masters thesis (Larouche, 2016). A summary paper is forthcoming to the CUFN listserv.

Within the national research working group that falls under the Canadian Urban Forest Strategy we are trying to bridge the demand of such research needs by municipalities, with researchers and scholars. Some research groups include:

With the many research groups becoming better established and as the need for research in urban forestry grows alongside the desire to be part of that movement, how can we organize ourselves to better collaborate?

Tree Canada has made much progress in the last three years in moving efforts of the Canadian Urban Forest Strategy forward and throughout 2017 the strategy will be revised for the 2018-2023 term. As part of revising the CUFS, Tree Canada is exploring the notion of forming a national coalition of individuals and groups at a more formal level to better advocate for urban forests nationwide.

The Canadian Urban Forest Network is one of the systems and tools that is currently being better developed to help produce and share knowledge among communities across Canada. In addition, the Canadian Urban Forest Conference (CUFC) serves to foster dialogue on a variety of topics – the next conference will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2018.


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