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Research article2016Peer reviewed

Diversification of the urban forest—Can we afford to exclude exotic tree species?

Sjoman, Henrik; Morgenroth, Justin; Sjoman, Johanna Deak; Saebo, Arne; Kowarik, Ingo


Introduced tree species represent a substantial component of urban forests in cities all over the world. Yet there is controversy about the further use of introduced tree species. Many practice orientated publications, research papers and governmental websites in the fields of urban planning, urban forestry, and urban ecology argue for planting native species and avoiding introduced species. Such arguments for native-only species selection are also touted by environmental groups and the media. Consequently the debate has sometimes spiralled away from a sensible and rational platform where invasion risks and biodiversity loss are discussed, to a groundless and unreasonable argument where exotic species are generally considered incapable of providing ecosystem services. From a European perspective, we here aim to curate a set of necessary considerations for current and future discussions on native and non-native plant material in sustainable urban development. Using examples from Northern and Central Europe we illustrate that in some regions the catalogue of native tree species may be too limited to fulfil ecosystem services and resilience in harsh urban environments. A main message from our line of arguments is that we cannot afford to generally exclude non-native tree species from urban greening. If "native-only" approaches become incorporated in regional, national or international policy documents or legislation there is a risk that urban ecosystem resilience will be compromised, particularly in regions with extreme environmental conditions. Since both invasion risks and sizes of native species pools vary conspicuously at regional to continental scales we also argue to adapt urban policies on using non-native trees to regional contexts. (C) 2016 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.


Diversity; Invasive trees; Resilience; Tree selection; Urban trees; Urban forestry; Urban planning

Published in

Urban Forestry and Urban Greening
2016, Volume: 18, pages: 237-241