Central Park, New York. Credit: Corey Harmon, Flickr

Urban forests, or the collection of trees and plants in cities, are part of the green infrastructures that connect biodiversity, people, ecological function and the economy together. These trees grow in parks, neighborhoods, yards and along the streets. Trees and vegetation provide aesthetic value, habitat for many species, reduce noise, improve air quality, enhance stormwater management, and improve quality of life.

It is important to have urban forests because buildings, streets and paved surfaces store heat from the sun — especially during the summer. Temperatures in the city are higher than the surrounding countryside, resulting in an event called the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. Shade from trees can slow the deterioration of street pavement and reduce energy demands for air conditioning, which in return decreases air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.


Did you know?

  • Around 80 percent of the population in the lower 48 states lives in urban areas.[1]
  • Nationally, urban forests are estimated to contain about 3.8 billion trees, with an estimated structural asset value of $ 2.4 trillion.[1]
  • Urban trees in the lower U.S. currently store 770 million tons of carbon.[1]
  • Jobs are needed to plan, create and maintain urban forests. Urban forests can provide tens of thousands of new jobs as arborists and urban foresters and in landscape design, development and maintenance.[2]



[1] U.S. Department of Agriculture. Forests on the Edge. Sustaining Urban Trees and Forests. http://www.fs.fed.us/openspace/fote/reports/nrs-62_sustaining_americas_urban.pdf (accessed June 5, 2013).

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Quarterly. Archives. Spring 2005 Vol.49, Number 1. Careers in the Green Industry: Jobs for People With Green Thumbs. http://www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2005/spring/art03.pdf (accessed June 5, 2013).