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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Beyond 'trees are good': Disservices, management costs, and tradeoffs in urban forestry

Roman, Lara A.; Conway, Tenley M.; Eisenman, Theodore S.; Koeser, Andrew K.; Ordonez Barona, Camilo; Locke, Dexter H.; Jenerette, G. Darrel; Ostberg, Johan; Vogt, Jess


The provision of ecosystem services is a prominent rationale for urban greening, and there is a prevailing mantra that 'trees are good'. However, understanding how urban trees contribute to sustainability must also consider disservices. In this perspective article, we discuss recent research on ecosystem disservices of urban trees, including infrastructure conflicts, health and safety impacts, aesthetic issues, and environmentally detrimental consequences, as well as management costs related to ecological disturbances and risk management. We also discuss tradeoffs regarding species selection and local conservation concerns, as well as the central role of human perception in the interpretation of ecosystem services and disservices, particularly the uncritical assertion that 'everybody loves trees'. Urban forestry decision-making that fails to account for disservices can have unintended negative consequences for communities. Further research is needed regarding life cycle assessments, stakeholder decision-making, return-on-investment, and framings of services and disservices in urban forestry.


Ecosystem disservices; Green infrastructure; Negative synergies; Positive synergies; Urban ecosystems; Urban sustainability

Published in

AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
2021, volume: 50, pages: 615-630
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Roman, Lara A.
United States Forest Service
Conway, Tenley M.
University of Toronto
Eisenman, Theodore S.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Koeser, Andrew K.
University of Florida
Ordonez-Barona, Camilo
University of Melbourne
Locke, Dexter H.
United States Forest Service
Jenerette, G. Darrel
Dept Bot and Plant Sci
Vogt, Jess
DePaul University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities
SDG16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science
Human Geography
Landscape Architecture

Publication Identifiers


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