City dwellers around the world could live healthier lives and see health care costs shrink simply by implementing better urban forest design, planning and management.
Recent innovative studies conducted in Canada and the U.S. show that trees remove air pollution – both gaseous and particulate pollutants – and this has a beneficial effect on human health.
And, while the concepts of trees scrubbing the air and cleaner air having beneficial effects are not particularly new, “the innovation derives from linking pollution removal by trees to human health in cities,” said Dr. David Nowak of the US Forest Service, and one of the authors of the studies.
“We know the existing forest is already removing air pollution, but better designs and management could be used to produce further air quality improvements using trees and forests. This, in turn, would improve human health and significantly reduce associated health care costs,” he said.
“Computer simulations with local environmental data reveal that trees in 86 Canadian cities removed 16,500 tonnes of air pollution in 2010, with human health effects valued at $227.2 million Canadian dollars,” said Dr. Nowak.
In an earlier study of U.S. trees and forests nationally, again using 2010 as the base year, human health effects were valued at US $6.8 billion, and 17.4 million tonnes of air pollution were removed.
The Canadian government – Environment and Climate Change Canada – helped fund the more recent study (Air pollution removal by urban forests in Canada and its effect on air quality and human health) shortly after the 2014 publication of the assessment for the U.S. done by Dr. Nowak and his colleagues.
“All countries could use and benefit from this type of information,” Dr. Nowak said. “The processes of trees are fairly consistent across the globe, but the results will vary based on local environmental conditions and human and forest populations.
“A series of free tools is available to aid cities and forest managers globally in assessing their current forest structure and benefits (www.itreetools.org). We’ve now incorporated this particular process into the i-Tree Eco model to help managers estimate these and other effects and values from trees and forests,” he said.
i-Tree is a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the Forest Service of the USDA that provides urban and rural forestry analysis and benefits assessment tools. The i-Tree tools can help strengthen forest management and advocacy efforts by quantifying forest structure and the environmental benefits that trees provide.
Since the initial release of the i-Tree tools in August 2006, thousands of communities, non-profit organizations, consultants, volunteers and students around the world have used i-Tree to report on individual trees, parcels, neighborhoods, cities, and entire states.
By understanding the local, tangible ecosystem services that trees provide, i-Tree users can link forest management activities with environmental quality and community livability.
Dr. Nowak pointed out that trees provide multiple benefits in addition to pollution removal, so it follows that better urban forest design and management, in addition to improving human health and lowering health-related costs, could also reduce other urban problems and costs, such as energy use, flooding, high air temperatures, etc.
“If better forest designs and management are instituted to improve air quality, people living in cities everywhere should benefit,” he continued.
“Even though the percentage of air quality improvement is relatively small, these improvements in air quality impact human health,” said Dr. Nowak.
“Cities are not just people, buildings, roads and cars. They also have substantial amounts of natural elements such as trees, grass, soil, wildlife etc. that play essential roles within city environments,” he said.
Dr. Nowak said the role of natural elements within cities has been known for centuries. “But, to better incorporate these elements, we need to include them throughout the design, planning and management process of the cities.”
Cities would have to assess their current forest distribution and conditions. With that information and knowledge of tree effects on air pollution, specific management plans could be developed to maximize tree impacts on human health.
Policy makers, he said, should recognize that trees and forests within cities affect air quality and can be used to further improve that air quality. Investing in improving city forests and their management can yield improvements in human health and wellbeing and save money in the long run.
The full report can be found at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1618866717302182
Dr. David Nowak is the coordinator of IUFRO Research Group 6.07.00 – Urban forestry: https://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-6/60000/60700/.
“The portfolio of goods and services from forests is now very different to that two decades ago; yet there is a disconnect between the institutional framework and these new forms of forest use, leading to efficiency, equity and legitimacy deficits,” said Dr. John Innes, Dean of the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia, Canada.
The changes – from forest planting and forest harvesting and operations, to forest use and forest products – occur at different levels. Today, forests produce a complex array of products from forest ecosystem services to timber and bio-products.
Market values are increasingly being attached to forest ecosystem services and this is changing the value systems associated with forestry.
Dr. Innes is coordinating a Task Force set up by IUFRO – Resources for the Future: Transformation in Forest Use – to better understand those changes.
“Globalization, population growth, resource scarcity and ecological degradation are all influencing forest use,” he said.
“For instance, a growing middle class requires more forest products accessible through global supply chains. At the same time, these supply chains are threatened by, and contribute to, resource scarcity and ecological degradation,” he said. “In another example, policy makers have identified forest products as important to climate change, so new products have been developed to meet the climate challenge.
“Both these examples have explicit implications for forests and are transforming forest use, yet the institutional response has been slow and inadequate in dealing with these drivers,” he said.
Dr. Innes further noted that humans now value, in monetary terms, the full breadth of forest ecosystem services including non-market values and that now we also view forests as feedstock for the bio-economy.
“These are distinct and relatively nascent changes in our relationship with forests,” he said. “For many Indigenous communities across the globe, the changing relationship with forests has been dramatic – particularly as they engage in the forest sector as market participants.
“Valuation of forest ecosystem services can run counter to holistic Indigenous values; but valuation also affords protection by adequately recognizing, quantifying and integrating these values into decisions, and policy makers can consider the full costs of their decision. These values in the past were typically ignored,” Dr. Innes added.
The Task Force will seek to generate insights about the pathways that can be adopted to encourage a sustainable transformation in forest resource use.
It will identify institutions, governance structures, policies and instruments that can help policy makers and stakeholders address problems and capitalize on opportunities brought about by rapid change and describe the potential benefits and implications from them in terms of equity, effectiveness and efficiency.
It will also develop recommendations for forest research institutions to build understanding for, and implementation of, those various tools to support successful transformation in forest use.
The Task Force also convened a roundtable of leading global experts from government, industry, academia, NGOs and Indigenous groups in Dehradun, India in April of this year to further discuss the sustainable transformation of forest use. A book elaborating on the outcomes of that roundtable is expected in the near future.
The Task Force on the transformation in forest use future is one of several established by IUFRO to advance knowledge under five research themes in accordance with the IUFRO 2015-19 Strategy.
The five themes are: Forests, Soil and Water Interactions; Forests for People; Forests and Climate Change; Forests and Forest-based Products for a Greener Future; and Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Biological Invasions.
Task Force website: http://www.iufro.org/science/task-forces/transformation-forest-use/
View all IUFRO Spotlights at http://www.iufro.org/media/iufro-spotlights/
IUFRO Anniversary Congress Spotlight #56 – Environment vs. economy: Mapping the forest environmental frontier
To some, the forests mean combatting illegal logging and associated trade, avoiding deforestation and degradation, conserving biodiversity and protecting wilderness.
To others, the forests mean timber as a renewable raw material for uses such as construction and bioenergy, forest-based climate change adaptation and mitigation and transitioning toward a forest-based bioeconomy.
“These issues can be termed the global forest environmental frontier,” said Dr. Georg Winkel, Head of the European Forest Institute’s Resilience Research Programme in Bonn, Germany.
“All the issues are interrelated and relate to a global controversy that asks how we can keep and manage the world’s forests to satisfy both ecological and socio-economic needs now and in the future,” he said.
Dr. Winkel is coordinator of a session entitled The Global Forest Environmental Frontier – What has changed, what has remained unchanged, how will the future look? at the IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress in Freiburg, Germany in September. Read more…
IUFRO Anniversary Congress Spotlight #55: Genetics research crucial to future forest health, adaptation, conservation and sustainable management
“The role genetics/genomics research can play in forest management is huge but, unfortunately, remains under-utilized,” said Dr. Om Rajora, Professor of Forest Genetics and Genomics at the University of New Brunswick, Canada.
“Genetics/genomics research can greatly assist the management of natural and planted forests by conserving healthy, productive, well-adapted and genetically diverse natural forest and developing high yielding tree varieties with desired traits for deployment in plantations,” he said.
Dr. Rajora is the organizer and coordinator of a session entitled Genetics and Genomics for Conservation, Climate Adaptation and Sustainable Management of Forests to be presented at the IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress in Freiburg, Germany in September. Read more…
An increasing number of studies demonstrate that mixed forests can deliver many ecosystem services at a higher level than pure forests.
Today, however, less than 0.1% of plantation forests worldwide are made of mixed tree species. And, by the end of this century there is the potential for about 20% of the world’s forest area to be represented by planted forests.
“More efforts should be made to develop new mixed, planted forests,” said Dr. Hervé Jactel of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research. He is one of the authors of a new review, Tree Diversity Drives Forest Stand Resistance to Natural Disturbances, which reviews the relationships between tree diversity and stand resistance to natural disturbances, and explores the ecological mechanisms behind the observed relationships. Read more…
There’s a line in a song by U.S. singer-songwriter Dee Moeller that goes: “The wide open spaces are closing in quickly, from the weight of the whole human race…”
That line could well be the sub-title for a session to be held at the upcoming IUFRO 125th Congress in Freiburg, Germany entitled: Co-existence of humans and wildlife in changing landscapes and climate.
Current human population growth is causing an increasing demand for natural resources and a growing pressure for access to land which, among other things, affects wildlife habitat and the interactions between wildlife and humans, said Dr. Chabi Djagoun, of the Laboratory of Applied Ecology in Cotonou, Benin. Read more…
“We’re trying to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” said Dr. Jens Peter Skovsgaard of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Alnarp, Sweden.
He was speaking about forestry operations and research and how change can be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Dr. Skovsgaard is coordinator of a session entitled: Forestry “Classic” for the Future, at the IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress in Freiburg, Germany in September. Read more…
IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress Spotlight #51 – Pooling resources to meet sub-Saharan forest challenges
Collaboration and cooperation are the keys to facilitating learning and making better use of research outcomes in sub-Saharan African countries facing severe forestry challenges.
That’s the philosophy behind Dr. Joseph Cobbinah’s upcoming session on the impact of forestry research on policy, livelihoods and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. The session will take place at the IUFRO 125th Congress in Freiburg in September. Read more…
IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress Spotlight #50 – Filling in knowledge gaps about natural disturbances and their interactions in mountain forests
In mountainous terrain they are called protection forests – forests that protect human settlements and infrastructure against natural disturbances such as rockfall, snow avalanche and shallow landslides.
Natural disturbances are becoming more and more important drivers in many mountain chains worldwide, mainly because of past land-use legacies. But also, under climate change, the incidence of some natural disturbances is increasing.
These disturbances and their interactions can threaten human life and property and can compromise the protection function of mountain forests. Read more…
IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress Spotlight #49 – Citizen scientists around the world take to the woods in an effort to improve the health of forests
The coordinator of a session on citizen science planned for the IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress is aiming high.
He hopes the session will inspire discussion about the merit and potential of a global initiative on invasive forest pest monitoring, with special emphasis and resources for countries with developing economies.
The focus is on invasive species because people are major drivers of their spread. Consumer demand drives globalization and the international trade in ornamental plants, which is a major contributor to the invasive problem. Read more…