Adapting urban forests to a changing climate
Urban forests improve the lives of people in cities, including reducing the urban heat island effect, controlling stormwater, and improving air quality. Maintaining and building strong urban forests is thus a key way for cities to adapt to warmer temperatures and changing precipitation patterns. But urban trees themselves may be threatened by intense heat, severe storms, rising sea levels, and more pests and diseases. Forest Service scientists at the agency’s Northern Research Station, and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science developed a framework for urban forest adaptation. They piloted the framework in the Chicago region in collaboration with the Chicago Region Trees Initiative and other partners. A vulnerability assessment revealed that roughly 20 percent of the region’s trees were vulnerable to climate change, and many of the trees that were not vulnerable were nonnative invasive species. Workshops with municipal foresters, parks department managers, and forest preserve managers integrated this information into local, on-the-ground projects. Information is now being incorporated into the Chicago Region Trees Initiative Master Plan. Lessons learned from the Chicago pilot have been applied to other urban areas in the Midwest and Northeast. Workshops in the Twin Cities, Boston, and Philadelphia brought together more than 150 urban forestry professionals to understand local impacts of climate change and develop their own local adaptation strategies. These efforts have resulted in real-world demonstrations of how people are adapting their urban forests to climate change.
Forest Service Partners