Urban Forests


He looked away from the buildings and out over the ocean of trees. Since Atlanta was not a port city and was, in fact, far inland, the trees stretched on in every direction. They were Atlanta’s greatest natural resource, those trees were. People loved to live beneath them.
Thomas Wolfe, A Man in Full


As you head for home on a hot summer day, you turn off a loud blistering stretch of concrete into your neighborhood.  The shade of the tree canopy welcomes you, the temperature drops noticeably, it’s quieter, and you think how glad you are that you live in an urban forest.

Urban forests are important to our quality of life and mental health; they are our contact with nature. Every day in a neighborhood with trees there are joggers, people on a stroll, dog walkers and bicyclists. No need to convince you exercise is better here than in a gym; you already know it.

It’s the trees that provide the background for this setting.


There are differences between an urban forest and a natural forest.

  • Urban forests are managed; i.e. trees are selected planted and removed by man. [1]
  • Urban Forests are less diverse which carries associated risks, e.g. Dutch Elm Disease [1]
  • There is a growing understanding of the importance of the natural ecology in urban forests. [2]

Close to 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas and depends on the essential ecological, economic, and social benefits provided by urban trees and forests. In 2000, 3.1 percent of the [contiguous] United States was classified as urban, yet this small percentage of land supports 79 percent of the population, or more than 220 million people. [3]

Currently Atlanta’s canopy report card shows good grades – for now.  Atlanta has a 47.9% canopy cover which leads 17 other major US cities.  It’s important to maintain that overall percentage. [4]


[1] MDPI.com: How Do Urban Forests Compare?…

[2] Wikipedia: Urban Forests

[3] UDSA: Sustaining America’s Urban Trees and Forests

[4] Georgia Tech: Preserving the City of Trees

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