Human Dimensions of Urban Forestry and Urban Greening
Nature and Consumer Environments Trees and Transporatation Civic Ecology Policy & Planning Urban Forestry and Human Benefits

In urbanized settings, the lives of people are intertwined with natural environments and urban ecosystems. Traditional ecological science has, for the most part, not included human behavior as an integral study.

This research program is exploring how people in cities and communities benefit from being involved in environmental projects, how urban ecosystems benefit communities, and how to encourage conservation behavior.



Studies, Papers & Information

Urban Natural Resources Stewardship
Trees, parks, and open spaces in cities are in need of ongoing management and maintenance. Yet few local governments have adequate resources to address these needs. Citizen-based stewardship helps fill the gap. Generally, we know that citizen stewards contribute many thousands of hours each year in the parks and open spaces of their communities. Nonetheless, we know little about the impacts or outcomes of this work. A series of studies is underway to better understand the ecological and social co-benefits of urban natural resources stewardship. Our University of Washington team is collaborating with the Green Cities Research Alliance of the USDA Forest Service to conduct this work, in addition to teams in New York, Baltimore, and Chicago.

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Wolf, K.L. 2013. Stewardship Mapping: Understanding the Groups That Work for Urban Greening. Arborist News 22, 6: 54-58.


Dilley, J., & K.L. Wolf. 2013. Homeowner Interactions with Residential Trees in Urban Areas. Arboriculture and Urban Forestry 39, 6: 267-277.


Wolf, K.L., D. Blahna, W. Brinkley, M. Romolini. 2013. Environmental Stewardship Footprint Research: Linking Human Agency and Ecosystem Health in the Puget Sound Region. Urban Ecosystems 16: 13-32.



Romolini, M., W. Brinkley, and K.L. Wolf. 2012. What Is Urban Environmental Stewardship? Constructing a Practitioner-Derived Framework. Research Note PNW-RN-566, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland OR, 41 pp. (910 K pdf)



Brinkley, W., K.L. Wolf, and D.J. Blahna. 2010. Stewardship Footprints and Potential Ecosystem Recovery: Preliminary Data for Seattle and Puget Sound. In: D.N. Laband (ed.), Linking Science and Society: Proceedings of Emerging Issues Along Urban/Rural Interfaces III. Atlanta GA. (262 K pdf)


  Romolini, M., W. Brinkley, K.L. Wolf. 2010. What is Urban Environmental Stewardship? Working Toward a Practitioner-Derived Definition in Seattle. MillionTreesNYC, Green Infrastructure and Urban Ecology: A Research Symposium. (2.9 M pdf)


Trees, Nature, and Active Living
The U.S. (and other nations) are facing a public health crisis. A variety of conditions - sedentary lifestyle and fat laden diets, for instance - are contributing to increased incidence of overweightness and obesity. Such health conditions contribute to higher risk for chronic diseases, leading to high public costs to cities and the nation. What are the solutions? On one hand urban designers should provide adequate facilities for moderate physical activity (such as walking and biking). On the other hand, individual behavior choice makes a difference. Multiple studies show that having trees and nature nearby is important to a person's choice to go outdoors and be active.


Wolf, K.L. 2008. City Trees, Nature and Physical Activity: A Research Review. Arborist News, 17, 1:22-24. (840 K pdf) and (160 K pdf with citations)


newEcosystem Services - Urban Landscapes & Cultural Services
Humans are dependent on natural systems for the basic materials and processes that sustain life and society. Ecosystem services is a concept that describes and measures a broad array of services, including provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural groups of services. Recent research on the role of urban greening in human health and well-being offers a rich contribution to our knowledge of cultural ecosystem services. A web site summarizes the evidence about Green Cities: Good Health. Other materials describe how urban forestry and city green provide environmental services.


Wolf, K.L. 2012. The Changing Importance of Ecosystem Services across the Landscape Gradient (pp. 127-146). In: Laband, D.N., B.G. Lockaby, and W. Zipperer (eds.) Urban–Rural Interfaces: Linking People and Nature. Madison, WI: American Society of Agronomy/Soil Science Society of America/Crop Science Society of America.


Wolf, K.L. 2012. The Nature and Health Connection: Social Capital and Urban Greening Ecosystems. Proceedings of the 2012 International Society of Arboriculture Conference. Champaign-Urbana, International Society of Arboriculture. (212 K pdf)

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Ciecko, L., K. Tenneson, J. Dilley, K.L. Wolf. August 2012. Seattle's Forest Ecosystem Values: Analysis of the Structure, Function, and Economic Benefits. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station and City of Seattle. (21 M pdf)


Psychology and Sustainability
Public concern about the environment is increasing. Most problems concerning environment and ecology are not resource problems; they are people problems! Some of our most pressing environmental issues are the result of hundreds, thousands, or millions of actions on the part of individuals and households. Likewise, solutions will be the result of individual and household behavioral changes. Behavior change can be guided using psychosocial principles. These ideas build on the work of Doug McKenzie-Mohr, an advocate of social marketing for environmentally responsible behavior.


Wolf, K.L. 2007. Learning Sustainability: To Know and To Act. Public Garden 22, 1: 12-15. (pdf 632 K)


Human Dimensions of Water Systems
Water quality and quantity are challenges in built environments. The decline of large marine systems, such as the Puget Sound (aka the Salish Sea) affects commerce and quality of life. Freshwater systems sustain life, but pollution threatens the usability of water sources. Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution is the principal remaining cause of water quality problems across the U.S. Urban land uses and the cumulative daily activities of millions of people can unintentionally reduce water quality in both marine and freshwater systems. Agencies and interest groups provide education, technical and financial assistance, and regulatory programs to conserve valuable water resources. Yet little is known about the effectiveness of such programs. Water management can be approached as a social-ecological system. Integrated biophysical and social sciences can provide better understanding of and solutions for threatened water systems.

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Wolf, K.L., & M.A. Rozance. 2011. Social Science, Economics, and Making Science Relevant: The Puget Sound Social-Ecological System. Proceedings of the 2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference. Vancouver B.C., Canada. (1 M pdf)


Landowners and Restoration: a human dimensions perspective. WA Association of District Employees 2007 Annual Training Meeting (Leavenworth, WA) (2.1 M pdf)



Nonpoint Source Pollution: Landowner Psychology and Action: Fact Sheet (pdf 16 K)


  Nonpoint Source Pollution Learning Methods and Their Effectiveness: Fact Sheet (pdf 28 K)


Youth and Urban Nature Experiences:
Assessing Impacts, Benefits and Behaviors
Many organizations and agencies offer opportunities for youth to work in urban forests and other nature settings. Youth may participate in programs as volunteers or employees. While helping to improve the environment through planting, restoration and facilities work, it is possible that young people gain social and psychological benefits. Following a literature review, a pilot instrument of developmental measures was used to assess potential youth benefits. A two-study research project was then done. Project partners have included EarthCorps (Seattle), Mountains to Sound Greenways Trust (Seattle), and numerous organizations in other U.S. cities that host youth and nature programs.


Wolf, K.L., and EarthCorps. 2007. Trees and Youth in the City: Research on Urban Forest Stewardship & Positive Youth Development. In: Sustaining America’s Forests: Proceedings of the Society of American Foresters 2007 National Convention. Bethesda MD: Society of American Foresters (Portland, OR). (300 K pdf)


Youth and Urban Forestry Work: studies of developmental benefits - Fact Sheet (pdf 96K)


  Research About Youth Benefits From Nature and Forest Experiences - Fact Sheet 14 (pdf 35K)

PROJECT INTRODUCTION - Social Science Research Project: Forest Ecosystem Work and Youth Benefits (pdf 18K)


  Wolf, K. L. 2003. Youth and Mental Health: Work Projects in Urban Green Space. In C. Kollin (ed.), Engineering Green: Proceedings of the 11th National Urban Forest Conference. Washington D.C.: American Forests. (pdf 304 K)



Human Dimensions of Urban Forestry and Urban Greening
Nature & Consumer Environments - Trees & Transportation - Civic Ecology
Policy & Planning - Urban Forestry & Human Benefits

updated December 23, 2013