Selecting Adaptation Actions
You may need to alter your management practices to address new or increased challenges associated with a changing climate and environmental conditions. Identifying potential challenges and opportunities will position you to take action and adapt practices that will maximize the benefits urban forests provide for human health and wellbeing, equitable tree cover, or other goals.
Start by brainstorming and outlining specific actions or tactics that you want to evaluate for each management goal, then consider:
- Time Frames – When would this action be implemented? Some actions may occur in the short term, while others may not occur for a long time or will occur only in certain situations (such as after a large disturbance).
- Benefits – What benefits does the action provide? For example, note if a tactic addresses your biggest challenge, addresses multiple challenges, or has co-benefits like improving carbon mitigation and human health outcomes.
- Drawbacks and Barriers –What drawbacks are associated with this action? Note any negative effects or potential barriers (e.g., legal, financial, infrastructural, social) that are likely to arise?
- Effectiveness – Does the action meet the desired intent?
- Feasibility – Can the action be implemented?
After considering the above items, you will be better able to select the specific actions or tactics that are a good fit for your situation. The preferred actions will likely be those that overcome the greatest challenges, have major benefits, and can be implemented given your available resources.
“Right Tree, Right Place” Urban Forestry
Optimizing tree canopy for climate mitigation and public health requires careful tree species selection and tree care that is customized to each location. Tree species selection will depend on your management goals and objectives and may need to balance competing demands for climate suitability, carbon mitigation, human health services, and other benefits. Careful selection of tree species and cultivars at the outset of a project can pay dividends in reduced tree care throughout the life of the tree. Emerging urban forestry practices can also feed into strategies that extend the carbon storage of trees beyond their biological lifespan by converting them into urban wood products, such as furniture and building materials.
With more trees removed from urban areas than National Forests, urban wood reuse in legacy cities can ignite new industrial economies that create jobs, improve ecosystems, and reduce environmental impact.
Access the Urban Wood Reuse Action Guide.
Tree species lists that integrate information about climate change and human health, such as the Rhode Island Climate and Health Tree Species List, can be used to identify which tree species to plant for adaptation projects. The information that was gathered into these lists can be used to identify tree species that can help meet the management goals and objectives while also providing long-term benefits under a variety of future projected conditions.
Providing Co-benefits to Your Community
Urban forestry, along with other nature-based and green infrastructure solutions, are increasingly used as strategies to address climate change effects. Evidence demonstrates that city trees and urban forests can be positive influences on health and wellness. At one scale, trees, groves and forests are part of the physical and built spaces that can enable more healthful behaviors across communities. At a finer scale, everyday encounters and experiences of trees provide physiological respite and recovery. While response to a climate effect or threat may be the primary purpose of a tree or forest project, a modest amount of additional planning (and funding) can extend the purposes and functions to include benefits for social, mental, and physical health.
Case Study: Providence
The Providence Parks Department and the Providence Neighborhood Planting Program are working to engage residents and neighborhood stakeholders in developing and implementing community-driven tree-planting and stewardship solutions focused on climate adaptation and human health in Upper and Lower South Providence.
Tree canopy cover in Upper and Lower South Providence is threatened by increased temperatures and precipitation, more frequent extreme weather events, and altered soil moisture. Neighborhoods in this region are disproportionately burdened by the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice. Factors, such as a high coverage of impervious surfaces, low tree canopy cover, and proximity to a major highway and industrial port, result in negative impacts on health and wellbeing; these include urban heat island effect, flooding, and poor air quality.
The local urban forest managers used the Urban Forest Climate and Health Adaptation Menu to identify adaptation actions, including:
- Increase and improve tree canopy
- Select climate-adapted tree species
- Increase ground cover biodiversity
- Install curbside bioswale tree filter pits
- Assess and maintain existing tree stock
Read more about this project
Case Study: Boston
Speak for the Trees Boston is helping the City of Boston increase canopy cover from 27% to 35% by the year 2030, turning the focus particularly to underserved and under-canopied neighborhoods. A community-based tree giveaway program provides communities with trees that have been selected for their climate-adapted traits to promote the long-term sustainability of the urban forest canopy, while creating healthy forest gardens and community spaces.