Managing the Urban Forest
By Rick Harman, ISA Certified Arborist
Every day, more studies emerge showing the importance of the urban forest, yet many may not understand the benefits or even recognize what and where the urban forest is. Urban forest is comprised of a collection of green spaces connected throughout a city forming a green infrastructure. The trees and shrubs lining streets and buildings, gardens, and the parks in urban and suburban developments all form a city’s urban forest.
One of the large laurel oak trees being relocated within the Bella Vita development located in West Palm Beach. WGI incorporated existing, mature oaks found on the property within an open space to create an oak hammock that adds immediate impact to the development.
The value derived from urban forests rest in the many social, health, and economic benefits they provide. In addition to enhancing urban design, increasing property values, and enriching social cohesion, green infrastructure cleans the air and water through its natural transpiration processes. Foliage reduces particulate matter and pollution, and sequesters carbon from the air, while roots reduce stormwater runoff, flooding, and erosion. The urban forest is also able to cool the air through direct shade and evapotranspiration in the canopy. Appropriately placed trees can provide significant energy savings for a variety of properties. Finally, the urban forest provides a link to more rural areas for wildlife, including birds and small mammals.
Holding pen for relocated sabal palms on a residential development site. They will be incorporated into landscape buffers and open spaces throughout the community providing a more established aesthetic to the development.
In order to maximize the benefits of the urban forest, it is important to implement maintenance plans designed to reduce costs. This includes selecting vegetation that is low maintenance and drought resistant to reduce labor and irrigation requirements. It also means designs should consider adjacent structures and utilities. Sidewalks, water lines, and sewer lines broken by encroaching root systems are problems that can be minimized or avoided if the right tree is selected for the right place. Preserving and relocating existing larger trees, especially in groups, requires less maintenance while also providing greater benefits than newly planted trees.
WGI’s certified arborists are enhancing the state of urban forests for our clients every day. Through our sub-meter accurate Global Positioning System (GPS) tree inventory services, we can identify healthy candidate trees for preservation that will provide a mature canopy in a new development, taking advantage of all the benefits of a mature tree. In existing developments and communities, our arborists can assess trees for hazards and prescriptive pruning to prolong the life of the existing canopy, while reducing owner’s risks and costs. We are active participants and supporters of organizations that are concerned with the protection of our urban forest including the Florida Urban Forestry Council, Florida Forest Services, and the South Florida Urban Tree Canopy Coalition. Our experiences with these organizations, and knowledge of the urban forest, helps us to create better, more livable communities.