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Spatial configurations of urban forest in different landscape and socio-political contexts: identifying patterns for green infrastructure planning

Nielsen, Anders Busse, Hedblom, Marcus, Olafsson, Anton Stahl, Wiström, Björn
Urban ecosystems 2017 v.20 no.2 pp. 379-392
case studies, cities, climate change, ecosystem services, ecosystems, forest resources, geographic information systems, green infrastructure, heat island, landscapes, linear models, people, planning, urban forests, urban population, urbanization
Rapid urbanisation and climate change have motivated the development of urban green infrastructure (UGI) as a planning strategy to support the wellbeing of urban people and ecosystems while parallel adapting cities to climate change. Forest (tree-covered areas >0.5 ha) is a key UGI component that afford a wider range of ecosystem services and mitigate urban heat islands more effectively than non-wooded green spaces. However, understanding of spatial configurations (variation in patch size and frequency) of forests across the gradient of urbanisation and between cities is limited to case studies. This represents a considerable knowledge gap for identification of general patterns that can inform integration of forest resources in UGI planning that have value beyond the individual city level. In this study we used Geographic Information Systems to explore the spatial configuration of forests across cities located within landscapes characterised by different levels of anthropogenic modification (degree of forest cover) and socio-political contexts, i.e. all Danish and Swedish cities >10,000 inhabitants (n = 176). We applied general linear modelling to investigate the relationship between forest cover, patch size and frequency with 1) regional landscape type, 2) demographic trends 1960–2010, and 3) the gradient of urbanisation (measured in three zones: urban core (0.2 km from city boundary), urban fringe (0.2–2 km), and urban periphery (2–5 km)). Regardless of demographic trends, forest cover was lowest in cities settled in large-scale agricultural regions, higher in regions with mosaics of forest and farming, and highest in forest-dominated regions. However, in all cities forest cover was lowest in the urban zone and peaked on the urban fringe rather than on the urban periphery. Furthermore, pocket woods (0.5–2 ha) accounted for over 50 % of patches in all three urban zones, irrespective of regional landscape type. We conclude by discussing how these general patterns could inform strategies for integration of urban forests in UGI planning.