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.

Urban Forestry

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.

Benefits Information

Urban Forestry Organizations

Resources: Programs and Grants

State and Federal Resources

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.