Skyline of Cleveland

Science Café Cleveland: Past, Present, and Future of Urban Forest Ecology and Management

Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Science Café Cleveland will be online this month. You’ll be able to connect to the session by following the Zoom address from our Facebook event.

This month’s Science Café Cleveland features Kevin Mueller from the Dept. of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences at Cleveland State University, who will be discussing urban forest ecology through a Dickensian narrative:

“Follow three Dickensian ghosts to learn more about how we might best grow and maintain the valuable trees in our streetscapes, parks, and yards. This journey through time will consider the practices of urban foresters, the abundance and diversity of trees in cities, changing environmental conditions, and the ecological factors underlying the ecosystem services generated by trees.

The Ghost of Forests’ Past will show how cultural values, economic shifts, and ecological dynamics interacted to create urban forests with little diversity and resilience. This ghost can see inside the minds of the first urban foresters, has an apt memory of historical weather patterns and outbreaks of tree pests and pathogens, and a fondness for the ebbs and flows in tree rings that record changes in the performance of trees over time.

Ghost number two will offer glimpses into the current state of forests in urban areas like Cleveland, and highlight how ecology and tree physiology have been better integrated into the management of urban forests. The Ghost of Forests’ Present is the most critical and passionate of the three, taking pleasure from identifying the current limitations of ecological knowledge and its applications.

The future of the urban forest is murkier than Ebenezer’s or Tiny Tim’s, and the Ghost of Forests’ Yet-to-Come is the most naïve. Regardless, this final ghost will attempt to tie up the loose threads of ecology and land management, and in a manner that provides opportunities for optimized production of ecosystem services in cities. This forward-looking ghost likes big trees where possible, is wary of tradeoffs in ecological functions and management goals, and views diversity from a perspective that is more functional and mechanistic than taxonomic and morphological.”

As usual, the (Zoom) event starts Monday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. ET.