Cities better prepared for global change with a healthier, more efficient urban forest

80% of the Canadian population lives in cities. This places increasing responsibility for environmental and health issues on municipalities.

Through the urban forest (street, park and urban woodland trees), we benefit from important ecosystem services such as heat island reduction, surface water control and improved air quality.

Climate and global changes are increasingly threatening urban green infrastructure, particularly trees, through increased environmental stresses and the occurrence of exotic insects and diseases. However, the impact of these changes on the urban forest and the implications for human health are not known, nor is it known how the urban forest should be adapted to ensure the sustainability of its ecosystem services.

The Urban Forest Research Chair is financially supported by the Borough of Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, the Service des Grands Parcs, du Mont-Royal, et des Sports, and the Bureau de la transition écologique, City of Montreal. In addition, Jakarto, Québec-Vert, Rousseau-Lefebvre, Le Service de l'eau de la Ville de Montréal, and Soverdi are very important partners supported by the Alliance program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Maintain the performance of urban forests and their impact on the health and well-being of citizens

The Chair's mission is to work in collaboration with the municipal sector to adapt urban forests to climate change as well as to ensure its resilience and its capacity to deliver quality services, especially with regards to health, to urban populations. The development of cutting-edge expertise in service of Quebec municipalities is at the heart of the Chair's activities on the urban forest. It aims to maintain and improve the services provided by trees and forests to citizens.

Make every planted tree count!

It is not so much the number of trees that count, but the services they provide. We work with various stakeholders to identify the main objectives that influence the planting of trees and weigh them according to societal and sanitary priorities, in such a way so that each tree can provide a maximum of services where it really counts. Planting a tree in a disadvantaged neighbourhood, with a clientele at greater risk of developing diseases related to environmental exposure (pollution, heat islands, and pollen) will therefore have a greater overall impact. This is extremely important to consider in the context of limited resources and space, where several urban forest actors are called upon to do their part.

Provide benefits for society
  • Adapt the urban forest to climate change to guarantee and increase the delivery of services in the future.
  • Increase the indirect value of ecosystem services and improve our ability to quantify them.
  • Optimize greening efforts to maximize not only social, but also physical and mental health benefits (ex: academic success, crime, problems associated with heat islands, and cardiovascular and respiratory sicknesses), particularly for at-risk citizens.
  • Develop tools to help with decision making for practitioners and to transfer knowledge which allow for clearer, more impactful, and more concise policies.
  • Optimize the management of urban forests to generate important savings by reducing the number of replacements and sanitary interventions.
  • Train a highly qualified "next generation" in ecology and urban forestry management and offer continuing education to practitioners.
  • Mobilize knowledge and education in the media and to the general public on the importance of trees and biodiversity in cities.
Research that inspires

As we continue to realize the importance of forest ecosystems and their services, particularly the importance of trees on health, we still know strikingly little on the functioning of trees and forests in urban areas, and practically nothing on their effects on the biological diversity. Thus, the Chair aims to investigate two main research objectives to better understand these trees that we encounter in our daily lives.

  1. Understanding the functioning of urban forest ecosystems
    • Understand the effect of tree diversity and isolation on their resistance to urban stressors (disease, insects and drought);
    • Study the survival and growth of urban forests;
    • Collect water from trees to understand their water stress tolerance strategies;
    • Quickly identify the stressors affecting trees and forests to optimize sanitary interventions;
    • Study the urban forest as a support for biological diversity in the city, particularly in terms of complex biological interactions and networks.

  2. Quantify ecosystem services according to the expected effects of climate change and adaptation scenarios to consider in the future
    • Develop new, more efficient inventory techniques that include all trees;
    • Improve the accuracy of service assessments and calculations, adapted to our region and species (surface water, temperatures, carbon, habitat for wildlife diversity);
    • Develop knowledge on the mechanisms related to human health, for example, allergies;
    • Develop indices related to the output of services rendered (crown volume, leaf area, carbon content);
    • Study how trees and wooded areas can be particularly useful in disadvantaged areas.