Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 289–308 | Cite as

An integrated approach to evaluating urban forest functionality

  • M. David Oleyar
  • Adrienne I. Greve
  • John C. Withey
  • Andrew M. Bjorn


Despite the fact that forests in urban areas play multiple and often conflicting roles, research and management efforts are typically geared towards a single role or purpose. Urban ecology addresses this multiplicity of function by viewing human and natural systems in urban areas not as separate entities, but as interacting components of an integrated whole. We present an interdisciplinary approach for evaluating the different ways that forests are often valued: economically, socially, and ecologically in residential areas of King County, WA. Economic function is measured as the change in housing prices attributed to location on the gradient, using a hedonic price model. For social function we use a survey to measure (1) residents’ use of parks and forests, and (2) satisfaction with their neighborhoods. We measure ecological function as songbird species richness, using bird survey data. Overlaying the curves of economic, social, and ecological function on the common axis of our urban gradient allows for relationships and tradeoffs to be qualitatively evaluated. Each function responds differently to the gradient. The housing price response is strongest at high and low levels of urbanization, with positive premiums in both areas. Satisfaction with neighborhood attributes decreases with increasing urbanization, while the likelihood of mentioning ‘parks’ as an important element of a resident’s neighborhood increases. Songbird richness peaks in less-developed areas. Evaluating the different functions together is an important step in recognizing and understanding the multiple roles forested areas play.


Urban ecology Urban forests Forest function Urban gradient Interdisciplinary research 



We thank our colleagues in University of Washington’s Urban Ecology Program for useful comments and constructive criticism throughout the duration of this study. Roarke Donnelly and others shared bird survey data. We thank Gordon Bradley, Anne Kearney, Claire Ryan, Kathy Wolf, and Mark van de Kamp for valuable assistance with social survey design and analysis. We also thank Jeff Hepinstall for support with GIS analyses. M. Alberti, G. Bradley, J. Marzluff, and E. Shulenberger provided valuable comments that helped to improve the manuscript. NSF IGERT-0114351 provided support for this study and student fellowships.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. David Oleyar
    • 1
  • Adrienne I. Greve
    • 2
    • 3
  • John C. Withey
    • 1
    • 4
  • Andrew M. Bjorn
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Forest Resources, Urban Ecology ProgramUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Urban Design and Planning, Urban Ecology ProgramUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.City & Regional Planning DepartmentCalifornia Polytechnic State UniversitySan Luis ObispoUSA
  4. 4.Lewis & Clark CollegeDepartment of BiologyPortlandUSA

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