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Lessons learned from Urban Forestry Vulnerability Assessment: Chicago

Lessons Learned from the Urban Forestry Climate Change Response Framework Project: Chicago Wilderness


Urban areas are already experiencing impacts of a changing climate including increased temperatures, flooding, and extreme storms. These impacts are projected to increase in frequency and magnitude over the next century, leading many cities to develop plans to adapt and prepare for these challenges. Increasing tree canopy is often considered in urban climate change adaptation plans, where trees can help reduce local heat island effects, control storm water, and improve air quality. Although urban trees can be an important part of adaptation solutions, they also can be vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Harsher summer temperatures, potential summer droughts, heavy winds, flooding, and increased pests and diseases can all stress urban trees.

These urban trees may be experiencing stress from improper planting, restricted rooting conditions, road salt, and air pollution already, and therefore extremely vulnerable to climate change. Many urban foresters have recognized the need to incorporate climate change considerations into urban forest management, but often lack the specialized training or knowledge to explicitly address this in their planning and practices.

This document describes a framework developed and piloted in the Chicago region to assess the vulnerability of urban forests and incorporate that information into on-the-ground actions. A description of the three steps used to implement this project and the lessons learned from this process. Our hope is that by sharing our experience, others can learn from it and apply this framework to their own urban areas.

Download the full "Lessons Learned" report here to learn more about the Urban forest project in the Chicago Wilderness region.


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LESLIE BRANDT is a climate change specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, 1992 Folwell Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108,

LYDIA SCOTT is director of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative at The Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois

ABIGAIL DERBY LEWIS is a conservation ecologist at Keller Science Action Center, The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605,

LINDSAY DARLING is a GIS analyst with the Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL Rt. 43, Lisle, IL 60532, ldarling@

ROBERT FAHEY is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment & the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of Connecticut, 1376 Storrs Rd., Storrs, CT 06269,