A Chartered Environmentalist, Helen has over 10 years’ experience in conducting environmental assessments of planning policy, with a focus on enhancing ecosystem service delivery. Helen has recently completed a PhD on the value of urban forest ecosystem services to different stakeholders, including citizens, businesses and local authorities. She now works for WSP as Deputy Leader of the Natural Capital and Biodiversity team, with a focus on green infrastructure assessments. In her free time, Helen volunteers as the Tree Warden Co-ordinator for Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council.
Despite the wide range of ecosystem services (ES) that urban forests provide to society, austerity measures mean local government budgets for tree planting and maintenance have declined in many cities throughout the world. One solution to this could be the adoption of a beneficiary pays model – payments for ecosystem services (PES). However, do the beneficiaries of urban forests value trees enough to want to pay for them?
This question was answered through interviews with 30 businesses and a survey of 415 citizens in the UK city of Southampton. Here I present the results of research that explores and contrasts the attitudes of business and citizens towards urban trees, the ecosystem services and disservices they provide, and their interest in paying for new tree planting and maintenance to secure enhanced provision of ecosystem services. In contrast to the perceptions of local authority tree officers, both groups showed strong support for the proposed PES scheme, with particular interest in tree planting that enhances air purification, flood reduction, aesthetic, and human well-being benefits.
Many factors are found to drive citizen and business preferences and willingness to pay for tree planting. Along with socio-demographic and economic factors, these include businesses’ motivations for undertaking broader CSR activities, citizens’ subjective beliefs about ecosystem service provision, and issues of fairness regarding who pays for tree planting, how much, and where.
For local authorities, the results of this research mean that considering the use of alternative funding for enhancing their urban forests is worthwhile. In particular, the research suggests that citizens and businesses would be willing to work in partnership with local authorities (with varying levels of involvement) to fund the planting and maintenance of new urban trees, e.g. through a PES scheme.
Camilo is an interdisciplinary researcher in natural resource and environmental management, with an interest is nature in cities, particularly urban forests. His work relates to the social and ecological aspects of urban ecosystems, including people's relationship with urban nature, climate change adaptation in cities, and urban greening technologies. Camilo research has been based in Australia, Canada, and Latin America.
Urban trees are recognized as critical for biodiversity, health, well-being, and climate-adaptation. As trees age and increase in size, they provide more significant benefits, such as cooling and shade. While many cities have ambitious plans to increase tree numbers and canopy cover, cities also struggle to maintain and increase tree numbers. This is because they also remove many urban trees every year. Large, old trees can pose a hazard to human safety and hinder construction activities, and hence are often removed. While the environmental and biodiversity benefits of tree abundance are known, there is almost no evidence on how much benefit is lost when large, old trees are removed from a park or a street, particularly with regards to less tangible benefits, such as wildlife density and psycho-social benefits. Without this information, cities cannot develop quantifiable standards that could be used to advocate for tree protection or compensate for the costs associated with the loss of social and ecological benefits due to tree removal. We present results from an experimental investigation that measured how the social and ecological benefits provided by urban trees change before and after trees are removed from parks and streets. We used selected park and street sites in the Cities of Melbourne, Ballarat, and Moreland, Australia, to investigate changes of density of birds and other fauna, tree herbivory, tree attitudes and preferences, subjective human well-being, and nature connectedness of the people visiting the sites. We discuss how this research can give cities the tools to quantify how much social and ecological benefit is lost due to tree removal, so they can more effectively account for tree losses and protect their urban forests.
Naomi Zürcher/Arbor Aegis
1979>present: Urban Forester initiatives:
1996>present: Certified Arborist/Consulting Arborist, specializing in reviewing/ editing/authoring Tree/Landscape Preservation/Protection specifications for public infrastructure projects, developing a “Building WITH Trees” approach to design/build.
2012>present: semi-retired and working to enhance/advance European Urban Forestry through COST GreeninUrbs, Swiss federally-funded Climate Change Adaptation project. i-Tree.
Trees and people have been connected over the many millennia we have been present on this Planet, facilitating our very existence. “Throughout human history, trees have enabled us in a very tangible way… We live in trees via building materials and furniture. We ingest trees – they sustain us with food and medicine. We share our thoughts and our knowledge using paper made from their pulp. We wear trees’ fiber for clothing. Trees convey us via canoes, wagons, bridges. They warm us in winter and shade us in summer. But these same tangibles have also inspired the intangibles – shelter can also be viewed as protection and sustenance can be of the spirit and the mind as well as for the body.” (Zurcher, N. In press. Connecting Tree with People: Synergistic Strategies for Growing the Urban Forest).
If one analyzes the intangibles – the myths, art, poetry - one can see the affect trees have on our individual and collective psyche; how then do we turn the ancestral connections into today’s actionable stewardship? How do we, the professional choir, get back to those basics that Dr. Alex Shigo was so fond of sharing – what makes a tree a tree - biologically, structurally, genetically; how can the built environment accommodate trees’ needs, enabling all those remarkable capacities, so critical in a changing climate and to our personal well-being? How do we expand the stakeholder circle to create and include an informed citizenry?
This Urban Forester/Consulting Arborist’s observations from the field will offer insight into innovative strategies for the planning and management of the Urban Forest – strategies that not only provide beneficial outcomes for our urban trees but facilitate community empowerment, cross cultural collaboration and informed advocacy, resulting in a more sustainable urban ecosystem and a healthier, more connected human population.
I am an Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry at the University of British Columbia. My research focuses on urban forestry and socio-ecological interactions in cities, with an emphasis on equity, human health, and climate change. I am currently examining (1) urban green equity, intersectionality and green gentrification; (2) experiences of women in urban forestry and arboriculture; (3) the relationship between greenness exposure and public health outcomes in urban environments, with a focus on spatio-temporal metrics and climate change; and (4) urban forest governance and resilience to social and ecological stresses.
The trees and associated vegetation that comprise urban forests provide multiple important services to urban residents. Unfortunately, there is evidence that these benefits are inequitably distributed. We examined the distributional equity of urban forests in 10 US cities. Urban forests were characterized three ways (mixed vegetation, woody vegetation, and public parks), to reflect the variable services associated with different types of urban vegetation. Data were analyzed using Spearman’s correlations and spatial autoregressive models. The research revealed widespread urban green inequity with strong positive associations between urban forests, higher education and income across most cities. Negative associations between racialized status and urban forests were observed but were weaker and less common. Park area was more equitably distributed than mixed and woody vegetation, although inequities existed across all cities and vegetation types.
Interviews with urban forestry and allied green practitioners in three US cities revealed that many urban forest practitioners are aware of urban green inequity and are attempting to rectify inequities in their cities. However, attempts to ensure more equitable distributions of urban vegetation risk contributing to green gentrification, i.e., the physical or psychological displacement of residents due to local greening activities. We conducted interviews with urban forestry practitioners and local residents, and an academic literature review, to assess the occurrence of urban green gentrification and elucidate strategies to reduce its incidence. Results suggest that urban forest planning and management that incorporate recognitional equity, and some forms of mosaic governance, may help prevent green gentrification from occurring as a result of neighbourhood greening projects. We hope that this research will inform urban greening projects that seek to equitably improve urban forests in marginalized neighbourhoods.
Robert Northrop is the extension forester for the University of Florida IFAS Extension. The focus of his work involves teaching ecology and conservation science to natural resource and landscape professionals; providing conservation planning assistance to local, state and federal governments; and applied research into the changing character and ecological function of the urbanizing forest within the Tampa Bay Watershed. Before coming to Florida he worked as the technical watershed forester for the State of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Restoration Program; an advisor to the Office of the Governor (Maryland) on forest and wildlife; and taught wildlife management for 14 years at the University of Delaware.
The management and conservation of the urban forest is based upon the same set of applied ecological principles that define traditional forestry as practiced in semi-natural or native wild forests. The urban forest context itself is distinct due to the high density of human habitation, which leads to more complex social interactions, increased variation in land cover and landform modification, and a greater degree of public control of land use and management.
The practice of urban forestry operates within the nexus of city residents and their bio-physical environment. A comprehensive understanding of the opportunities and constraints of the urban society is needed to develop and implement urban forest programs that are sustainable and support multiple and diverse outcomes. Successful management requires that the urban forester/municipal arborist be astute at working within a socially and politically active context, with effective skills in critical thinking, communication, comprehensive planning and social assessment. Prior to the initiation of project planning, urban foresters/municipal arbori'sts should work with social scientists in the development and implementation of an assessment of prevailing societal attitudes and expectations within the project area. Such an initial assessment can be quickly and inexpensively undertaken. Along with the bio-physical assessment, they provide a logical foundation for the organization and implementation of urban forest projects at the community, city, regional or national geographic scales. Social assessments build political and citizen support by incorporating constituents' values into decision making process of project design. Citizen support and involvement is critical to the success urban forest projects and long-term conservation.
The use of integrated social and bio-physical inventories and analyses during the development of urban forest conservation planning will be illustrated with examples drawn from work with the City Tampa Florida, City of Gainesville Florida, and the Dept. of Conservation which manages a 32,000 hectare natural area system of rare, threatened and endangered habitats within the Tampa Bay Metropolitan region.
Liz O’Brien is Head of the Social and Economic Research Group at Forest Research. Her research explores well-being and the cultural ecosystem benefits of trees and woodlands including a focus on the health benefits of engagement with trees and woodlands – physical, mental and social. She was previously involved in two European COST Actions: 1) Forests and human health, 2) Urban forests and green infrastructure, as well as the UK National Ecosystem Assessment Project on shared, social and cultural values. She is involved in two European expert groups: one on forests and human health, and the other on mental well-being.
In recent years the health and well-being benefits of trees, forests, and green infrastructure has become increasingly researched. This presentation will focus on two European expert groups and a range of research undertaken by Forest Research that provides insights into some of these benefits. One expert group was convened by Forest Europe to focus on forests and human health and well-being. The expert group reviewed existing scientific evidence published in Europe on forests and their contribution to health and well-being. It also identified good practice examples that illustrate different approaches taken in a range of countries to encourage and support engagement with trees and forests for health. The second expert group was organised by Eklipse, a European project funded to develop a sustainable mechanism to link science, policy and society. A call was developed, instigated by the French Government, on what types of urban green and blue space have an impact on mental health. The Forest Europe review is broad, while the Eklipse group undertook a systematic review. Forest Research has also been involved in a number of evaluations of interventions that aimed to engage people with trees and forests to improve their health and well-being. Some of these interventions focus on encouraging physical activity, while others take a mental health approach and sometimes include a focus on those with mental health problems, and those with addictions, autism, and behavioural problems. The reviews undertaken by the expert groups and the evaluations of the interventions illustrate the holistic nature of the well-being benefits people can gain from engaging with trees and forests that include impacts on mental, physical and social well-being, but that also highlight sensory, and meaningful – sometimes spiritual experiences. The different approaches taken and results outlined provide insights into this developing agenda on trees, forests, nature and health.
Dr Clare Hall joined Forest Research in 2017, having previously worked as a social scientist in academic, policy and non-profit-making sectors. Previous employers include Zero Waste Scotland, Cardiff University and the Scottish Agricultural College (now Scotland’s Rural College). She was also seconded to Defra’s Plant Health Policy Team to work as a Social Science Research Fellow in Tree and Plant Health and Biosecurity in 2012/2013.
The ecosystem services (ES) concept gained widespread exposure following the publication of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) in 2003, and, in the United Kingdom (UK), the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) in 2011 and the NEA Follow On (NEAFO) in 2014. The now widely recognised ES framework includes four categories of ES, namely supporting, regulating, provisioning and cultural. Cultural services provide the non-material benefits that people obtain from ecosystems through recreation, aesthetic experiences and reflection that may lead to spiritual enrichment, cognitive development and improvements in health and well-being.
This presentation is concerned with the cultural ecosystem (CE) benefits that derive from these CE services. Cultural ecosystem benefits incorporate sub-categories of goods including ‘Education and Ecological Knowledge’ goods. In this paper the findings are presented from three UK studies, namely an evaluation of Observatree, an evaluation of Mission: Invertebrate and a visitor study at Bedgebury Pinetum. These studies were concerned with how human engagement with trees and greenspaces can lead to learning, new knowledge and new skills via a spectrum of formal and informal activities and outdoor experiences.
Evidence from 113 participants in interviews and focus groups shows that there were four ‘learning’ themes, namely, learning about new topics, new actions and places, and developing new skills. Kinaesthetic learning was revealed to be important for the process of learning. Results also revealed that topic-specific learning activities can lead to broader knowledge about nature. The study points to a number of important questions that need to be addressed: Does new knowledge about environmental actions lead to habitual behaviours? To what extent can informal activities lead to learning? What is the significance of new knowledge versus building on existing knowledge and interests? All these points should be considered by policy makers and practitioners promoting learning through engagement with trees and greenspace.
Dr Jo Barton is an expert on the relationship between the environment and human health. She leads the ‘Green Exercise’ research programme, providing evidence of the synergistic health benefits of participating in physical activities in green spaces. The research acknowledges the physical, social and mental health benefits of green exercise and explores how the outdoor environment can be used to promote health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities. She has been invited to speak at more than 50 national and international conferences and has collaborated with colleagues to generate over £750,000 in green research income.
There are multiple theories proposing positive links between biodiversity and wellbeing that also map onto the biophilic values of nature. However, there is often a lack of understanding derived from comparative studies between different countries. This European study is the first to compare perceptions of biodiversity and links to mental wellbeing from a United Kingdom and Bulgarian perspective. It aims to identify what participants like and dislike about nature; what biodiversity means to people and which aspects are noticed and appreciated; how it impacts upon wellbeing and whether participant’s sense of nature connectedness affects the outcomes. An exponential discriminative snowball sampling approach was adopted to recruit 20 participants. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants in each country to address the study aims. Participants answered questions such as ‘what comes to mind when I say a “biodiverse environment”?’ and ‘what aspects of biodiversity do you prefer (and why)?’ This generated a set of ideas for discussion representing aspects of biodiversity and nature such as the variety of trees, colours, natural sounds etc. Participants also completed the Nature Connection Index and the ONS wellbeing scale. All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis and sentiment analysis was conducted to identify key themes. Initial findings suggest that increased biodiversity fosters feelings of interest, engagement and exploration. More biodiverse settings also promote relaxation and improve wellbeing as they incorporate a wider range of features that offer a distraction and stimulate involuntary attention. Deciduous woodlands are perceived to be more effective at promoting relaxation compared to grassland. Natural sounds are very important and there is a strong preference for the diversity of woodland bird calls. These findings have implications for landscape planning and effective tree planting, which also plays a role in addressing climate change solutions.
Berglind is a Social Scientist with Forest Research where she currently studies management practices relating to tree pests and diseases. In this work, she engages with practitioners to understand policy incentives, risk perceptions and decision-making processes. Other projects include reviewing evaluations of the impact of forest research on practice, and evaluation of Forestry England activity trails. Berglind has an MSc in Conservation Science from Imperial College London and has previously worked in amphibian conservation, partly during an internship at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Berglind also has a keen interest in connectedness to nature and behaviour change interventions.
On the 1st of October 2019, LuLa the alien arrived in twenty-three Forestry England forests. Families across the country headed to these sites, armed with an augmented reality app, to take the ‘Glow Trail’ and assist Shaun the Sheep in the quest of returning LuLa safely back to space. The app, developed in a partnership between Forestry England, Sport England and Aardman Studios, aimed to encourage less active families (primarily with children between the ages 6-12) to be physically active in the forest.
The benefits of physical activity in nature are numerous and widely reported. They include improved physical health, reduction of stress and trait anxiety, and improvement of mood, attention capacity and even self-esteem. Outdoor activities are often targeted at young people, a group which is increasingly inactive and prone to poor mental health and loneliness. However, encouraging increased engagement with such activities remains a challenge.
Forest Research evaluated the immediate outcomes of the Glow Trail using face-to-face questionnaires and through qualitative data collected from participating families and their children as they finished the trail.
The app with the Shaun the Sheep theme was successful in encouraging participation and engaging the children. Results show a range of benefits, most of which related to nature and physical activity (being outside in nature; walking or running in the forest). Children especially enjoyed the cognitive aspects of the trail, such as looking for clues, and described it as an “adventure’. Interestingly, self-reported physical activity levels of adults participating in the Glow Trail were approximately half that of the UK average, while children’s physical activity levels were considerably higher than the UK average.
We discuss whether app-based trails such as the Shaun the Sheep Glow Trail can be used as a tool to encourage young people to undertake social physical activity in nature.
Vadim Saraev’s PhD from Queen Mary, University of London was on monetary issues in transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe. He worked for the Bank of Finland Institute for Economies in Transition in Helsinki and the University of Stirling on applied economic research before joining Forest Research in 2007. His current research explores issues in forestry economics including: health, natural capital and green economy, payments for ecosystem services and their valuation, economic benefits of green infrastructure, optimal rotation length modelling, risk and uncertainty, climate change adaptation and mitigation options, applying econometrics, dynamic optimisation, numeric analysis and simulation.
There is strong evidence of associations between forests and trees and improved mental health, including in reducing psychological stress, anxiety, fatigue, depression, increasing mental wellbeing, and reducing health service treatment costs and work sickness absence rates. However, despite the growing number of case studies and the increasing evidence base on the benefits of forests for mental health, there remains a significant evidence gap in estimating associated economic values. For example, in principle health impacts could be quantified in terms of Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) – a measure often used for comparing the cost-effectiveness of different health interventions which in the United Kingdom Department of Health estimates has a monetised value of £60,000 per QALY at 2009 prices. However, there are relatively few studies to have done this for forests and trees, or associated health interventions, or estimates based upon other approaches to monetising their health benefits such as in terms of impacts on work productivity and sickness absences, or avoided costs of treating mental health disorders. This study reviews the approaches taken in previous studies to quantifying and valuing the mental health benefits of forests and greenspaces with trees. It proposes next steps in developing monetary valuations and exploring the potential for incorporation of these values in natural capital accounting, and in project and policy appraisal. It also suggests a future research agenda to address existing evidence gaps.
It draws upon the findings of a study to be completed in March 2020 which includes a literature review on the valuation of the mental health benefits of forests and interviews with experts exploring new frontiers.
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