Sustainability and the Urban Forest: An Ecosystem Services Perspective

28 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2010 Last revised: 13 Sep 2014

Date Written: December 9, 2010


Recently, urban forests have drawn attention due to interest in the idea that urban forests provide essential ecosystem services. Indeed, urban forests provide the benefits of a natural, cost effective system of green infrastructure: trees capture air and water pollutants, as well as provide shade, habitat, and even social structure. These services have a surprising but significant economic value, and attention to the design of urban forests can be a local means of capturing that value. From an ecosystem services perspective, the urban forest also reveals that the very existence of the nature in the urban area occurs as both a conceptual and a physical construct. That is, trees in the urban area result from intention and design.

This essay argues that urban forestry is a local opportunity to engage in an exercise of self-determination and local identity. Urban forestry requires an investigation into the ties between the community's environmental, economic, and social needs, a realization of the potential of space and natural infrastructure, and a manipulation of the services provided by trees. Understanding the nature of urban forests as urban, contingent, and constructed empowers local governments to become ecosystem beneficiaries by effectively bringing nature into their communities.

Keywords: urban development, environment, property

Suggested Citation

Hirokawa, Keith H., Sustainability and the Urban Forest: An Ecosystem Services Perspective (December 9, 2010). Natural Resources Journal, Vol. 51, p. 233, 2011; Albany Law School Research Paper No. 36. Available at SSRN: or

Keith H. Hirokawa (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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