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Urban Forest

Urban forest Illustration

Type of Development

New Development, Restoration


Hills, Valley, Baylands


Long Term


Natural Habitat, Urban




1:8 cost/benefit ratio. $100–$570 per tree with long term maintenance costs included (Nrc Solutions)


Tree canopies are tree communities of native or ecologically suited trees planted throughout cities to reduce climate change impacts. Trees establish healthy hydrologic circulation by capturing and storing water within soils, filtering out pollutants, and recharging clean groundwater through their base. Trees with deep root systems have a large capacity to capture water from storm runoff and flooding events. Tree canopies provide shade and healthy air, while also reducing average temperatures.

Illustration of integrating urban areas with natural green infrastructure.


Planting trees will detain water runoff from storms and floods, create shade and moisture, and will generally reduce temperatures.


Tree canopies' root systems capture excessive amounts of water runoff and effectively filter out pollutants from the hydrologic system. Trees sequester carbon, increasing healthy air in their vicinity and resulting increased overall community health. Green spaces create opportunities for community gatherings and are proven to increase mental health. Shade from trees reduces heat by up to 3-4 degrees during the day and as much as 11-22 degrees during the night. Further management of urban forests reduces wildfire risk and increases drought tolerance. Agroforestation increases soil nutrients, reduces erosion of soils, and generally increases the socioeconomic prosperity and value of crops. Tree groves protect rivers by intercepting rainfall and strengthening banks. The added nutritional value of trees, specifically native ones, reestablishes habitats by reducing weed growth and encouraging native organisms to thrive locally. Additional benefits include muffling traffic noise, removing pollutants and dirt from the air, and reducing cooling costs through direct shading of buildings.


Urban forests are dependent on space since tree roots generally extend over large areas of surface soil rather than digging deep. Thus the place they are planted must have capacity for tree roots growing horizontally.

Development Considerations

Forty percent tree cover is recommended. However, on average Santa Clara has only 11% tree coverage ( Trees require sunlight, water, and space. Planting times should be scheduled to experience mild climates for the first few months, right before Santa Clara's rainy season.

Environmental Considerations

Type of tree, space available, type of soil, planting schedule

Maintenance Consideration

Five years of maintenance may be required to protect small trees from animals, weeds, and humans. Additional attention after extreme weather events are required in the first five years of planting. However, after 5 years there is little to no maintence required. Tracking projects is always important for future projects.

Cost Considerations

1:8 cost/benefit ratio. $100–$570 per tree with long term maintenance costs included (Nrc Solutions)

Case Studies

Cover of the Moffett Park Specific Plan Urban Ecology Report

Moffett Park Specific Plan Urban Ecology

The Moffett Park Technical Plan lays out a city wide redevelopment of green infrastructure and Nature-Based Strategies that create habitats and natural corridors in order to reduce climate impacts and positively impact the community.

Cover of the Trees for Seattle 2020 Urban Forest Management Plan

Seattle Urban Forest Plan

Seattle Urban Forestry plan implemented the planting of trees and understory plants, as well as public gardens with agriculture across the city. The increase of vegetation has reduced noise and air pollution, while reducing flooding across the city.

Aerial image of a pathway with green infrastructure on both sides and housing surrounding it.

Street Edge Alternatives (SEA) Street Pilot

Seattle Public Utilities reconstructed an entire city street to include green infrastructure throughout. The infrastructure included bioswales, tree canopies, pervious pavement and more.

Aerial image of San Francisco with tree-lined street in the middle.

San Francisco Urban Forestry Plan

The goals of the SF Urban Forest Plan is to plant 50,000 new trees by 2050, create a city wide street tree maintenance program, and to educate the public on the importance and brilliance of trees.

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