The Einstein Memorial on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.
The Einstein Memorial on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. Credit: Wally Gobetz

Last week, I participated in a workshop titled “Urban Forestry: Toward an Ecosystem Services Research Agenda” at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. The workshop brought together more than 100 participants, and many more tuned-in via webinar. What a great turn out!

With interesting presentations, discussions and networking opportunities, I was excited to participate and hone in on the workshop’s key objectives to:

  • Explore the role of trees within the greater urban ecosystem and the linkages/trade-offs among different types of ecosystem services within this larger context.
  • Review our current understanding of the different types of ecosystem services provided by urban forestry, and discuss research needs for improving this understanding.
  • Highlight key tools available to track and quantify ecosystem services, and identify gaps in our ability to model, measure and monitor such services.
  • Identify effective management strategies and key challenges in implementing successful urban forestry programs.
Eco-Health Relationship Health Science Browser
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Eco-Health Relationship Health Science Browser”:

One main outcome that I enjoyed from this workshop was the update on all sorts of cool tools that are out there to help us talk about the ecosystem services provided by urban forests. For example:

  • Laura Jackson, a research biologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development, presented the “Eco-Health Relationship Health Science Browser.” This tool highlights the urban ecosystem and all the related public health benefits. Take a stroll around this interactive tool and see what you can learn.
  • Dave Nowak, a project leader for the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and an American Forests Science Advisory Board Member, discussed some of the new features of the recently launched i-Tree v5.0. The i-Tree suite provides urban forestry analysis and benefits assessment tools. The new i-Tree v5.0 features lots of great things, including a web-based data collection system (you can now use your smart phones to collect data with i-Tree!), pest risk analysis and updated ecosystem services pollution and carbon valuations. Check out all the new things!

In addition to the talk about tools for ecosystem service evaluation, there were also great discussions about improving the management of urban forests. One especially interesting presentation was from Morgan Grove, a social ecologist and team leader of the U.S. Forest Service’s Baltimore Field Station, who pointed out that “there is more woody biomass coming out of urban forests than natural areas.” With much of this due to trees being removed in communities due to severe weather events or damage from invasive pests, we need to find a way to better manage those results. Offering suggestions and a framework to maximize the biomass from our urban forests, he has been working to develop an interesting project in Baltimore for “Rethinking Wood in the City.”

I look forward to catching up on all the presentations that I missed the first day of the workshop that discussed current research on topics such as the role of urban forestry in public health, in sustaining biodiversity, in stormwater management and in air quality. So many great topics and important research underway!

Stay tuned for the final report that will be produced by the National Academy of Sciences based on the results of this workshop and the state of the urban forests ecosystem services research agenda. As an urban forest practitioner, tree planter, environmentalist or just interested community member, what type of research would you like to see prioritized to help enhance and improve our urban forests?