Trees as Infrastructure

Updated: Feb 24

This is one of two related articles on “Trees as infrastructure: An open source model to support municipalities in transitioning toward resilient urban forest management practices.” In this first blog, we examine why municipalities are struggling to reach tree-planting targets. In the second blog, we will develop a proposition for supporting cities to transition towards green infrastructures.

Social and ecosystem benefits associated with urban trees are widely supported by scientific research

We are seeing a growing acknowledgement of the importance of trees to combat (and mitigate the impacts of) the climate crisis—including within our cities. However, a series of structural problems inherent in our urban forestry management processes are working against the more and more ambitious tree-planting targets that cities are announcing.

By 2030, Prague has pledged to plant one million trees, Milan is aiming at three million trees and Sydney intends to add five million trees to the city’s existing urban forest. But the authorities responsible for such greening efforts are failing to construct credible, practical implementation and maintenance strategies. In England, tree-planting is falling 71 per cent short of the Government’s target, US cities are losing 36 million trees a year due to natural disasters and disease, and Sheffield, Europe’s greenest city, has lost 5,000 trees, chopped down by a private tree maintenance contractor despite furious local protests. Such manifest failures direct our attention to a series of deeper issues relating to budget allocations, accounting procedures and socio-political perceptions about trees in cities. It is these deep-rooted obstacles that we have to overcome in order to unlock the massive collective investment we need in trees as vital infrastructures for a resilient and thriving future.

Read more on Trees as Infrastructure here