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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

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

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities
    SDG16 Peace, justice and strong institutions

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science
    Human Geography
    Landscape Architecture

    Publication identifier


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