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Compendium of Best Urban Forest Management Practices

Chapter 1. Definition of Urban Forests

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Definition of Urban Forests

According to the Canadian Urban Forest Strategy, most people envision endless expanses of closed canopies of mature trees when they think of a forest; but what comes to mind when we think of an urban forest? Trees in containers on sidewalks? Forests in ravines? Backyard trees on lot lines? In 1974 Jorgensen [1] defined the term urban forestry in 1974 as “a specialized branch of forestry and has in its objectives the cultivation and management of trees for their present and potential contribution to the physiological, sociological and economic well-being of urban [2] society. These contributions include the over-all ameliorating effect of trees on their environment, as well as their recreational and general amenity value.

“Deneke [3] expanded on the term: “Urban forestry is the sustained planning, planting, protection, maintenance, and care of trees, forests, greenspace and related resources in and around cities and communities for economic, environmental, social, and public health benefits for people. The definition includes retaining trees and forest cover as urban populations expand into surrounding rural areas and restoring critical parts of the urban environment after construction. Expansion at the urban/rural interface raises environmental and public health safety concerns, as well as opportunities to create educational and environmental links between urban people and nature. In addition, urban and community forestry includes the development of citizen involvement and support for investments in long-term on-going tree planting, protection, and care programs.”

Over the years, many other definitions have been proposed, however they all recognize that the urban forest does not stop at the city limits. Urban forestry embraces the management of trees as well as the associated biotic and abiotic components in small communities and the interstitial areas between. If the traditional view of forestry focuses on the sustained production of forest products and ecological services in a wildland context then urban forestry focuses on the provision of a wide array of economic, environments and social services to urban society.

[1] Jorgensen, E. 1974. Towards an urban forestry concept. Proceedings of the 10th Commonwealth Forestry Conference. Ottawa, Canada; Forestry Service.

[2] According to Statistics Canada, an urban area (UA) has a minimum population concentration of 1,000 persons and a population density of at least 400 persons per square kilometre, based on the current census population count. All territory outside urban areas is classified as rural. Taken together, urban and rural areas cover all of Canada.

[3] Deneke, F. 1993. Urban Forestry in North America: Towards a Global Ecosystem Perspective. pp 4-8. IN Blouin, G. and Comeau, R. [eds.] Proceedings of the First Canadian Urban Forests Conference May 30- June 2, 1993. Winnipeg MB. 151 pp.


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