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New report explores trees’ role in town and city life

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Urban streetscape

A research report just published by the Forestry Commission offers new insight into the specific roles which trees play within the wider range of ecosystem services provided by greenspace in town and cities.

The report, which is based on a literature review, shows that woodlands, street trees, parks and other greenspace are given broad attention in the scientific literature. Papers focusing on green infrastructure as a whole are also common.

However, it found that there is very little reference in the literature to scale, and therefore whether it is individual trees, lines of trees or clusters of trees which principally provide each of the benefits.

A key objective of the report is therefore to illustrate the specific role of trees in providing benefits to society, as opposed to provision being assigned to green infrastructure in general, or to a particular greenspace type.
To this end it investigates scale-based urban forest elements, including single trees, lines of trees, clusters of trees, and woodland. The ecosystem services they provide are grouped into provisioning, regulating, and cultural services, and each service is considered in turn.

The author, Dr Kieron Doick of Forest Research, said,

“Information about the ecosystem services provided by single trees, lines of trees, tree clusters and woodland is helpful for mapping and quantifying ecosystem service delivery over a given area.

“It is also helpful for determining how and where the urban forest can be bolstered in support of ecosystem service provision, including a reduction in ecosystem disservices.

“By understanding which component parts of the urban forest are frequently associated with the benefit, policymakers and urban forest practitioners in Britain can make informed decisions about how to improve the long-term and sustainable provision of ecosystem services for a more resilient society.”

The report looks at a broad range of urban forest-based ecosystem services and disservices and, using a literature review, links their provision with four aspects of urban forests. These are: physical scale and management; physical structure; location and proximity to people; and land use and ownership.

Entitled ‘Delivery of ecosystem services by urban forests’, the report will be useful to urban planners, local authorities, tree officers and urban forestry practitioners, as well as academics working in urban forestry, green infrastructure, and nature-based solutions to climate change.

It is an unpriced publication available to download from the on-line publications catalogue at


  1. The term ‘the urban forest’ refers to all the trees in the urban realm – in public and private spaces, along linear routes and waterways, and in amenity areas. It contributes to green infrastructure and the wider urban ecosystem. Further information about urban forestry is available at
  2. The term ‘ecosystem services’ means the benefits which society obtains from ecosystems. Examples include food, fuel, clean water and fresh air.