On May 20, 2016, the U.S. Forest Service and Chinese Academy of Sciences jointly entered a scientific partnership. After years of sharing a mutual interest in urban forestry and ecology, the duo signed an official Letter of Intent declaring their new collaborative relationship.
Every year urban populations in the U.S. and China grow, increasing the need for a greater understanding of the natural aspects of a city (urban trees, wildlife, water) and how they interact with the social parts of cities such as clean water, climate resilience, or sustainable living.
The Forest Service’s Research and Development arm operates numerous place-based urban research sites across the country and in Puerto Rico. They work with local partners to address specific needs facing communities in ways that will also advance the sciences of urban forestry and ecology beyond that locale. The Northern Research Station leads four such sites in New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Chicago, called urban field stations. Similarly, the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences engages in eco-environmental science and technology research. It’s the first research institute in China to focus on urban topics and it also operates the State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology which is specifically devoted to place-based urban ecologic research.
In 2015, after working in parallel for a few years, U.S. scientists visited Beijing in acknowledgement of the similarity of their work and potential synergy – igniting discussions that led to the Letter of Intent.
When the Chinese Academy of Science signatories traveled to the U.S. for the signing, they spent a week travelling between New York City, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. – visiting two of the Forest Service’s Urban Field Stations while doing so. Once in Washington, D.C., they met with the Acting Deputy Chief of the Forest Service’s Research and Development branch, Carlos Rodriguez-Franco, along with Forest Service urban research leaders to sign the letter.
The Letter of Intent details the goals of this new agreement: share information and research findings, sponsor international workshops, support the development of an Urban Field Station in Beijing, and to work towards building a larger international network of place-based Urban Field Stations. This new unique partnership will last for the next five years, per the Letter of Intent, at which point the Forest Service and Chinese Academy of Sciences can decide to renew the agreement.