, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 863-877
Date: 04 May 2012

Ecological integrity in urban forests

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Abstract

Ecological integrity has been an umbrella concept guiding ecosystem management for several decades. Though plenty of definitions of ecological integrity exist, the concept is best understood through related concepts, chiefly, ecosystem health, biodiversity, native species, stressors, resilience and self-maintenance. Discussions on how ecological integrity may be relevant to complex human-nature ecosystems, besides those set aside for conservation, are growing in number. In the case of urban forests, no significant effort has yet been made to address the holistic concept of ecological integrity for the urban forest system. Preliminary connections between goals such as increasing tree health, maintaining canopy cover, and reducing anthropogenic stressors and the general notion of integrity exist. However, other related concepts, such as increasing biodiversity, the planting of native species, and the full meaning of ecosystem health beyond merely tree health have not been addressed profoundly as contributors to urban forest integrity. Meanwhile, other concepts such as resilience to change and self-maintenance are not addressed explicitly. In this paper we reveal two camps of interpretation of ecological integrity for urban forests that in turn rely on a particular definition of the urban forest ecosystem and a set of urban forest values. Convergence and integration of these values is necessary to bring a constructive frame of interpretation of ecological integrity to guide urban forest management into the future.