Designing Urban Forests


Trees add texture and services (shade and temperature modification) in urban environments. (Photo by Rod Kindlund).

Urban forestry managers can find it useful to assess their cities’ programs using a cost-benefit analysis, many of which have been incorporated into the free online tool iTree, developed by the U.S. Forest Service with collaborators. Species selection can influence both the quantitative and qualitative values of the urban forest as discussed below.

The Importance of Diversity

The metaphor comparing biological diversity …

Cost-Benefit Approach to Urban Forests: A Western Analysis


Urban tree programs have expenses for planting, maintenance, even sidewalk repair. Yet the benefits of urban trees in five western cities analyzed outweighed the costs by ratios of 1.37 to 3.09.

For the analysis, samples of 30 to 70 randomly selected trees from each of the most abundant species were surveyed in five cities: Fort Collins, Colorado; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Bismarck, North Dakota; Berkeley, California; and Glendale, Arizona. All of these cities were surveyed by the U.S. Forest Service during the …

Trees and Local Temperature

Trees shading parking lot.
Figure 1. Trees shade an urban parking lot.

Written by Melanie Lenart

Urban forests can help keep cities within a healthy temperature range, although the exact temperature reduction from urban forests is difficult to measure. The extent of the effect varies in space and in time, which complicates the issue, but large parks or tracts of urban trees can cool daytime summer air temperatures by about 10°F (McPherson and Simpson 1995).

Increasing the green cover of cities by 10% or …

Climate Mitigation by Urban Forests


Planting trees in urban areas can help mitigate carbon dioxide levels because trees can sequester carbon and offset some energy use for cooling, as some studies have illustrated in California.

urban trees The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB32) requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This amounts to a reduction of 173 million metric tons from the level projected for 2020.

Aerial photography revealed 242 million potential sites for planting individual trees …

Urban Forests and Climate Change

Adapted from: McPherson, E.G., J.R. Simpson, P.J. Peper, and E. Aguaron. 2008. Urban Forestry and Climate Change. Albany, CA: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station.

Urban forests can be useful both in mitigating climate change and in helping cities adapt to higher temperatures and other impacts of climate change. Urban trees reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the air by sequestering carbon dioxide and by reducing the amount of energy needed to heat and cool buildings. These …

Calculating Carbon Drawdown by Trees

Adapted from: McPherson, E.G.; J.R. Simpson,; P.J. Peper; and E. Aguaron. 2008. Urban Forestry and Climate Change. Albany, CA: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. Available at:

The Center for Urban Forest Research (CUFR) provides a tool for assessing the greenhouse gas drawdown in urban forests, the CUFR Tree Carbon Calculator (CTCC). It is the only tool approved by the Climate Action Reserve’s Urban Forest Project Protocol for quantifying carbon dioxide sequestration from greenhouse gas tree-planting …