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Compendium of Best Urban Forest Management Practices

Chapter 3. Benefits of Urban Forests

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Benefits of Urban Forests

Urban forests benefit us socially, environmentally, and economically. These benefits inspire Canadians to protect and improve their urban forests.

The social benefits of urban forests include:

  • Urban forests promote physical activity by providing space for recreation and creating an appealing outdoor environment (Mytton, Townsend, Rutter, & Foster, 2012).
  • Urban forests promote mental well-being and reduce stress, heart rate, blood pressure (Kardan et al., 2015) and incidence of obesity, athsma, and diabetes (Ulmer et al., 2016).
  • Urban forests can reduce crime rates and violence (Parker, 2018; Troy, Grove, and O’Neill-Dunne, 2012).
  • Urban forests can promote healing – people in hospital rooms with views of trees heal faster (Ulrich, 1992; Cooper Marcus, 2007).
  • Urban forests make cities more beautiful (Price, 2003; Tyrväinen, Pauleit, Seeland, & de Vries, 2005) and can hide unattractive features like walls, freeways, and parking lots.
  • Urban forests increase road safety by slowing traffic, reducing stress, or improving driver attention (Mok, Landphair, & Naderi, 2006; Naderi, 2003).
  • Urban forests provide food for people (Colinas, Bush, & Manaugh, 2018).
  • Urban forests promote social interaction and a sense of community, including stronger ties to neighbours, a greater sense of safety, and more use of outdoor public spaces (Kuo, 2003; Westphal, 2003).

The environmental benefits of urban forests include:

  • Urban forests reduce air pollution and provide oxygen (Nowak, Hirabayashi, Doyle, McGovern & Pasher, 2018).
  • Urban forests reduce the urban heat island effect and reduce the temperature of cities, helping cities adapt to climate change (Brandt et al., 2016; Sinnett, 2018; Rahman, Armson, & Ennos, 2014; Edmondson, Stott, Davies, Gaston, & Leake, 2016; Wang & Akbarib, 2016; Livesley, McPherson, & Calfapietra, 2016).
  • Urban forests reduce buildings’ energy use, including heating costs (Nowak, Hoehn, Bodine, Greenfield, & O’Neil-Dunne, 2016; Akbari, 2002; Akbari & Taha, 1992).
  • Urban forests improve water filtration, store water, and reduce stormwater runoff (Berland, 2017; Bartens, Day, Harris, Dove, & Wynne, 2008).
  • Urban forests help provide habitat for wildlife and help preserve biodiversity (Aronson et al., 2017; Alvey, 2006; Mörtberg, 2001).
  • Urban forests provide habitat for wildlife (Threlfall et al., 2015) and promote biodiversity (Sandström, Angelstam, & Mikusiński, 2006).

The economic benefits of urban forests include:

  • Urban forests provide ecosystem services evaluated at $330 million per year for Halifax, Montreal, Vancovuer, and Toronto (Alexander & DePratto, 2014).
  • Urban forests add value of between $1.88 and $12.70 for every dollar spent on maintaining them, depending on the city (Alexander & McDonald, 2014).
  • Urban forests increase property values (Escobedo, Adams, & Timilsina, 2015).
  • Urban forests help create attractive business districts and improve visitors’ perceptions of them (Wolf, 2003).
  • Urban forests have a positive influence on visitors’ perceptions of a city (Andrada & Deng, 2010).
  • Urban forests provide space for recreation (Schroeder, 2009; Miller, Hauser, & Werner, 2015).

To learn more about the benefits of urban forests, visit Tree Canada’s web page on the Benefits of Trees.

A note on the citations: We selected seminal and recent literature on the benefits of urban forests.

Further reading:

Akbari, H. (2002). Shade trees reduce building energy use and CO2 emissions from power plants. Environmental Pollution, 116(1), S119-S126.

Akbari, H. & Taha, H. (1992). The impact of trees and white surfaces on residential heating and cooling energy use in four Canadian cities. Energy, 17(2) 141-149.

Alexander, C. & DePratto, B. (2014). The Value of Urban Forests in Cities Across Canada. Special Report – TD Economics. Retrieved from

Alexander, C. & McDonald, C. (2014). Urban Forests: The Value of Trees in the City of Toronto. Special Report: TD Economics. Retrieved from 

Alvey, A. A. (2006). Promoting and preserving biodiversity in the urban forest. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 5(4), 195-201.

Andrada, R., & Deng, J. (2010). Enjoying Green Cities: Assessing Visitors’ Attitudes and Preferences for Urban Forests in Washington, D.C. Proceedings of the 2010 Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium, 168-174. Retrieved from

Aronson, M., Christopher, F. J., Lepczyk, A., Evans, K. L., Goddard, M. A., Lerman, S. B., . . . Vargo, T. (2017.) Biodiversity in the city: key challenges for urban green space management. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 15(4), 189-196.

Bartens, J., Day, S. D., Harris, J. R., Dove, J. E., & Wynne, T. M. (2008). Can Urban Tree Roots Improve Infiltration through Compacted Subsoils for Stormwater Management?. Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract – Bioremediation and Biodegradation, 37(6), 2048-2057. Retrieved from

Berland, A., Shiflett, S. A., Shuster, W. D., Garmestani, A. S., Goddard, H. C.,. . .Hopton, M. E. (2017). The role of trees in urban stormwater management. Landscape and Urban Planning, 162, 167-177.

Brandt, L., Derby Lewis, A., Fahey, R., Scott, L., Darling, L., Swanston, C. (2016). A framework for adapting urban forests to climate change. Environmental Science & Policy, 66, 393-402.

Colinas, J., Bush, P., & Manaugh, K. (2018). The socio-environmental impacts of public urban fruit trees: A Montreal case-study. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. In press, corrected proof.

Cooper Marcus, C. (2007). Healing Gardens in Hospitals. Interdisciplinary Design and Research, 1(1). Retrieved from

Edmondson, J. L., Stott, I., Davies, Z. G., Gaston, K. J., & Leake, J. R. (2016). Soil surface temperatures reveal moderation of the urban heat island effect by trees and shrubs. Scientific Reports, 6.

Escobedo, F. J., Adams, D. C., & Timilsina, N. (2015). Urban forest structure effects on property value. Ecosystem Services, 12, 209-217.

Kardan, O., Gozdyra, P., Misic, B., Moola, F., Palmer, L. J., Paus, T., & Berman, M. G. (2015). Neighborhood greenspace and health in a large urban center. Scientific Reports, 5. Retrieved from

Kuo, F. E. (2003). Social Aspects of Urban Forestry: the Role of Arboriculture in a Healthy Social Ecology. Journal of Arboriculture, 29(3),148-155. Retrieved from

 Livesley, S. J., McPherson, E. G., & Calfapietrac, C. (2016). The Urban Forest and Ecosystem Services: Impacts on Urban Water, Heat, and Pollution Cycles at the Tree, Street, and City Scale. Journal of Environmental Quality, 45(1), 119-124. doi:10.2134/jeq2015.11.0567

Miller, R. W., Hauser, R. J., & Werner, L. P. (2015). Urban Forestry: Planning and Managing Urban Greenspaces (3rd ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Mok, J.-H., Landphair, H. C., & Naderi, J. R. (2005). Landscape improvement impacts on roadside safety in Texas. Landscape and Urban Planning, 78, 263–274. Retrieved from

Mörtberg, U. M. (2001). Resident bird species in urban forest remnants; landscape and habitat perspectives. Landscape Ecology, 16(3), 193-203. Retrieved from

Mytton, O. T., Townsend, N., Harry Rutter, H., & Foster, C. (2012). Green space and physical activity: An observational study using Health Survey for England data. Health Place, 18(5): 1034-1041. doi: [10.1016/j.healthplace.2012.06.003]

Naderi, J.R. (2003). Landscape Design in the Clear Zone: Effect of Landscape Variables on Pedestrian Health and Driver Safety. Transportation Research Record, 1851, 119-130. Retrieved from

Nowak, D. J., Hirabayashi, S., Doyle, M., McGovern. M., & Pasher, J. (2018). Air pollution removal by urban forests in Canada and its effect on air quality and human health. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 29, 40-48. Retrieved from

 Nowak, D. J., Hoehn, R. E., Bodine, A. R., Greenfield, E. J., & O’Neil-Dunne, J. (2016). Urban forest structure, ecosystem services and change in Syracuse, NY. Urban Ecosystems, 19(4) 1455-1477. Retrieved from

Parker, T. S. (2018). Trees and crime in urban areas: recommendations. Forestry Research and Engineering, 2(3), 127-129.

 Price, C. (2003). Quantifying the aesthetic benefits of urban forestry. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 1(3), 123-133.

 Rahman, M. A., Armson, D., & Ennos, A. R. (2015). A comparison of the growth and cooling effectiveness of five commonly planted urban tree species. Urban Ecosystems, 18(2), 371-389. Retrieved from

Sandström, U. G., Angelstam, P., & Mikusiński, G. (2006). Ecological diversity of birds in relation to the structure of urban green space. Landscape and Urban Planning, 77(1-2), 39-53.

Schroeder, H. W. (2009). Variations in the perception of urban forest recreation sites. Leisure Sciences, 5(3), 221-230.

Sinnett, D. (2018). Mitigating air pollution and the urban heat island effect: The roles of urban trees. In I. Douglas, D. Goode, M. Houck, & D. Maddox (Eds.), Handbook of Urban Ecology. Routledge. [In Press] Retrieved from

Threlfall, C. G., Walker, K., Williams, N. S. G., Hahs, A. K., Mata, L.,. . .Livesley, S. J. (2015). The conservation value of urban green space habitats for Australian native bee communities. Biological Conservation, 187, 240-248. Retrieved from

Troy, A., Grove, J. M., & O’Neill-Dunne, J. (2012). The relationship between tree canopy and crime rates across an urban-rural gradient in the greater Baltimore region. Landscape and Urban Planning, 106, 262-270. Retrieved from

 Tyrväinen, L., Pauleit, S., Seeland, K., & de Vries, S. (2005). Benefits and Uses of Urban Forests and Trees. In C. Konijnendijk, K. Nilsson, Th. B. Randrup, & J. Schipperijn (Eds.), Urban Forests and Trees (81-114). New York: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

 Ulmer, J. M, Wolf, K. L., Backman, D. R., Tretheway, R. L., Blain, C. J. A., . . . Frank, L. D. (2016). Multiple health benefits of urban tree canopy: The mounting evidence for a green prescription. Health & Place, 42, 54-62.

 Ulrich, R. S. (1992). How design impacts wellness. Healthcare Forum, 35(5), 20-25. Retrieved from

 Wang, Y. & Akbarib, H. (2016).The effects of street tree planting on Urban Heat Island mitigation in Montreal. Sustainable Cities and Society, 27, 122-128.

 Westphal, L. (2003). Urban greening and social benefits: a study of empowerment outcomes. Journal of Arboriculture, 29(3), 137-147. Retrieved from

Wolf, K. L. (2003). Public response to the urban forest in inner-city business districts. Journal of Arboriculture, 29(3): 117-126. Retrieved from

Kuo, F. (2003). The role of arboriculture in a healthy social ecology. Journal of Arboriculture, Vol. 29 (3), pp. 148-155.


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