Toward a Biogeography of Urban Forests

While the factors that determine the distribution of species in natural ecosystems are relatively well understood, we are lacking a strong conceptual framework for the spatial distribution, diversity, and function of urban plants. Climatic variables likely play a role in the distribution of species and their physiological and ecological function in urban environments; however, factors that affect decision-making, landscape preferences, and institutional rules are also likely to be extremely important. In this project we will map the species composition, cover, and leaf area of the urban forest of Los Angeles both with current inventories and with historical analyses of photos, historical records, and satellite images. We will measure physiological processes of urban trees to develop a functional diversity classification and evaluate species responses to climatic gradients and management intensity. We will also quantify phenology, greenness, and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) with satellite imagery. Finally, we will conduct surveys and focus groups with forest managers, nursery professionals, and urban residents stratified by income and ethnicity in order to evaluate major factors influencing choices and preferences for specific species and functional groups. These measurements are designed to test hypotheses about urban forest development, function, and decision-making at several spatial and temporal scales. We will apply our results to developing an agent-based model of decision-making coupled to an ecological model of canopy processes and ecosystem function. Our overall goal is to test a conceptual framework for urban plant biogeography that involves both plant-environment interactions and canopy physiology as well as cultural preferences institutional rules, and economic factors.

Research Team

Biogeography of Urban Forests Team

This research is funded by the National Science Foundation.


Urban Nature’s Services Infrastructure: Challenges in Implementation and Ideas of Nature

Key note presentation by Stephanie Pincetl at the 12th annual meeting of the NSF Long Term Ecological Research Program on Phoenix at Arizona State University.

Click here to view the presentation.