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Individual Highlight

In-Filling Reduces the Urban Forest to the Detriment of Humans and Wildlife Habitat

Photo of The urbanization of forests. Forest Service The urbanization of forests. Forest Service Snapshot : The urban landscape, because of its developed infrastructure, has less ecological services than a forested rural landscape and any further erosion of its remaining services may be detrimental to humans

Principal Investigators(s) :
Zipperer, Wayne C. 
Research Location : Gwynns Falls watershed in Baltimore and Baltimore County, Maryland
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 128


The urban forest is highly dynamic. Losses result from droughts, wind and ice storms, land development, and potentially from management activities. Gains result from natural regeneration, canopy expansion, and growth of plantings. When losses exceed gains, a net loss of ecosystem services, such as shading, social and cultural, and health benefits, occurs.

In-filling is when a forest or existing urban land use in a city is converted into a different urban land use which can result in the reduction of the urban forest. For example, the conversion of a residential land use or a forested vacant lot to commercial or transportation land use often results in the reduction of the urban forest.

An analysis of canopy cover of the Gwynns Falls watershed in Baltimore and Baltimore County, MD, from 1994 to 1999, showed a reduction in canopy cover, not only in the county from deforestation practices but also in the city from in-filling practices. The loss of urban forest in the city showed a direct reduction of estimated benefits. Although in-filling may increase efficiencies for residents and reduce land development in less developed areas, continual in-filling can especially problematic when considering human health and comfort as well as the potential loss of valuable habitat for native species.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • University of Maryland Baltimore County

Program Areas