Exploring San Francisco's Urban Forest

Wildlife & Ecosystems

Exploring San Francisco’s Urban Forest

Why, exactly, do cities like San Francisco need trees? Help us discover the true worth of the benefits they bring.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

As cities grow, urban green space declines, leading to negative impacts on environmental quality and human well-being.

The impact of urban forests on biodiversity and the environment is significant - and it is increasing rapidly around the world.

Today, more than 80% of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, and this number continues to rise. As cities grow, urban green space declines, leading to negative impacts on environmental quality and human well-being.

Earthwatch volunteers pioneered a research effort undertaken by Earthwatch’s Urban Forest Project. In San Francisco, they undertook an initial study to develop benchmarks for drawing statistical comparisons over time. Their work helped nonprofits and city officials to relate changes in the urban forest (tree species and size) to changes in environmental conditions (road traffic density, height of surrounding buildings, and surface composition). The information they collected supported improved management of urban trees and provide data to underscore the positive impact the urban forest has on the environment and the local community.

Tree measuring in San Francisco

Data collection to study and protect the trees that make up San Francisco's urban forest.

Although urban trees offer great benefits, they can also cause problems. Roots undermine sidewalks, leaves create slippery hazards, and branches fall on power lines. Their impact on the public makes trees an integral and active part of urban planning for most, if not all, cities and municipalities. Little research had been conducted on urban forests compared with research on typical forests, making Earthwatch’s Urban Forest Program an exciting and significant development.

About the research area

San Francisco, California, United States, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:

The Scientists


Kelaine Vargas
Owner and Founder, Urban Ecos

ABOUT Kelaine Vargas Ravdin

Earthwatch researcher Kelaine Vargas Ravdin is an ecologist with special interests in the environmental sustainability of cities and the role of urban forests.


Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


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