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A review of urban forest modeling: Implications for management and future research

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Lin, Jian ; Kroll, Charles N.; Nowak, David J.; Greenfield, Eric J.

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Urban Forestry & Urban Greening


Urban forest modeling is becoming increasingly complex, global, and transdisciplinary. Increased modeling of urban forest structure and function presents an urgent need for comparative studies to assess the similarities and differences between modeling techniques and applications. This paper provides a systematic review of 242 journal papers over the past two-decades, and identifies 476 case studies. We assess model case studies among different locations, units and scales, compare the ability and functional capacity of the models and different tools, compare papers published in different disciplines, and identify new emerging topics in the field of urban forest modeling. Conclusions from this analysis include: (1) the spatial distribution of case studies is primarily clustered around the US, Europe, and China, with the most popular units to model being streets and parks; (2) the most commonly used model types are the i-Tree toolset, ENVI-met, computational fluid dynamic models, and the Hedonic price model; (3) uncertainty assessment of urban forest models is limited; (4) spatially explicit models are critically important for estimating of ecosystem services as well as for environment management; (5) most case studies focus on biophysical benefits with few studies estimating economic and social benefits; and (6) linkages between urban forests and their social-psychological and health effects are less common due to subjectivity and uncertainty in expressing and quantifying human cultures, attitudes and behaviors. Based on a comparison of different models and a syntheses of case studies, we make suggestions for future research connecting urban forestry and urban ecosystems, model development, and ecosystem services. Such knowledge is critical for policy- and decision-makers, and can help improve urban forest planning, design and management.


Urban forestry; Comparative studies; Multi-scale; Ecosystem services; Social-ecological system


Lin, Jian; Kroll, Charles N.; Nowak, David J.; Greenfield, Eric J. 2019. A review of urban forest modeling: Implications for management and future research. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 43: 126366. 11 p.

Last updated on: September 26, 2019