Urban Forestry and Forest Health
California's Engagement with Biochar
In an effort to enhance forest health, Office of Planning and Research (OPR) has been engaged in a multi-agency effort to evaluate market opportunities for wood-based products derived from forest fuel reduction and tree mortality biomass removal operations. One product in particular, biochar, has been a major focus of our investigation. Biochar is a charcoal material derived from the thermo-chemical conversion of biomass and is primarily used as a soil amendment to improve soil health. Although more investigation is needed, the scientific literature suggests that the application of biochar can improve crop productivity, carbon sequestration and soil-water retention. Additionally, biochar can be used for a variety of other purposes, such as a filtration media for odorous gas removal at waste water treatment plants and as a binder modifier to improve pavement durability in transportation infrastructure projects. OPR is currently engaged in several research and demonstration initiatives to explore the efficacy of biochar use under these three utilization pathways.
The link below leads to a Biochar Database, which was developed from a collection of responses by subject matter experts under the authority of OPR’s Biochar Research Advisory Group. This group was tasked with evaluating the available scientific literature and providing policy recommendations on all subjects related to biochar production and utilization.
For more information on OPR’s engagement with biochar, please reach out to Michael Maguire at Michael.Maguire@opr.ca.gov.
Trees and the urban forest provide a variety of important benefits in the urban environment. Environmental benefits include removing carbon from the atmosphere, reducing energy use, improving air quality, moderating stormwater flows, protecting water quality, improving economic sustainability, and providing habitat for wildlife. In addition to the health benefits realized through the protection and promotion of the environment, trees and urban forests also support the physical and mental health of residents. The urban forest can play a role in meeting carbon reduction mandates required by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. In short, trees can improve the environment, health, and quality of life in our urban environments where Californians live, work, and play.
In order to establish and maintain the stream of benefits potentially provided by an urban forest, a community's trees need to be well planned-for and managed over the long term. Unlike most other urban infrastructure, the value of the urban forest generally increases over time. Not only are trees and urban forests critical to the community's economic well-being and overall quality of life, but they are an important strategy for addressing chronic disease and obesity.
OPR provides the following information for local governments to plan for a healthy urban forest that optimizes the benefits urban forests can provide to the environment, public health, economy, and more.
- US EPA Heat Island Mitigation Strategies: Trees and other plants help cool the environment, making vegetation a simple and effective way to reduce urban heat islands.
- US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station: Research organization highlighting the benefits of urban forests and their value to communities. Includes information about cool parking lots, stormwater management, and more.
- US Forest Service Urban Forests and Climate Change: Urban forests have a role to play in reducing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
- University of Illinois, Landscape and Human Health Laboratory: The Landscape and Human Health Laboratory (LHHL) is a multidisciplinary research laboratory dedicated to studying the connection between greenery and human health.
- University of Washington, Green Cities: Research related to how metropolitan nature - including trees, parks, gardens, and natural areas - enhance quality of life in cities and towns. The experience of nature improves human health and well-being in many ways.
Urban Forestry Organizations
- California ReLeaf: California ReLeaf works statewide to promote alliances among community-based groups, individuals, and encouraging each to contribute to the livability of our cities and the protection of our environment by planting and caring for trees.
- California Urban Forests Council: The CA Urban Forests Council coordinates educational workshops, hosts an annual conference, runs a certified urban forestry program, supports seven regional councils, and manages the Invest From the Ground Up programs related to urban forestry and urban greening.
- Cal Poly Urban Forestry Ecosystems Institute: The Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute addresses the increasing need for improved management of the urban forests in California.
- Arbor Day Foundation: The Foundation is the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees.
- International Society of Arboriculture: Through research, technology, and education, the ISA promotes the professional practice of arboriculture and fosters a greater worldwide awareness of the benefits of trees. Includes a Western Chapter.
- Society of Municipal Arborists: SMA is an organization of municipal arborists and urban foresters, and consultants, commercial firms and citizens who actively practice or support some facet of municipal forestry.
Resources: Programs and Grants
State and Federal Resources
- CAL FIRE Urban Forestry Program, Regional Staff, and Grants: Under the authority of the California Urban Forestry Act of 1978, the Urban & Community Forestry Program works to expand and improve the management of trees and related vegetation in communities throughout California.
- Strategic Growth Council Urban Greening Grants: These grants fund public jurisdictions (including council of governments, countywide authority, a metropolitan planning organization, local government, nonprofit organization, special district, or joint powers authorities) and nonprofit entities in developing a master urban greening plan that will ultimately result in projects to help the State meet its environmental goals and the creation of healthy communities.
- USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry: The Forest Service supports projects and research related to a diverse array of urban and community forestry issues.
Resources for Local Governments
- CA Urban Forests Council Management Plan Toolkit: The Toolkit website can be used by anyone managing a large population of trees in or near urban areas. The website is intended to help urban forest managers develop management plans that are appropriate for their urban forests.
- ISA Tree Ordinance Guidelines: Tree ordinances are among the tools used by communities striving to attain a healthy, vigorous, and well-managed community forest.