Urban forestry and arboriculture as interdisciplinary environmental science: importance and incorporation of other disciplines

  • Jess Vogt
  • Burnell C. Fischer
  • Richard J. Hauer


Urban forests - trees and vegetation in cities - produce numerous benefits for urban residents. The study and practice of urban forestry aims to understand how trees and their benefits are produced and maintained over time. Urban forestry (tree population management) and the related field of arboriculture (single-tree management) are less known outside of the forestry and horticulture disciplines in which these fields developed. Because urban forests are best understood as social-ecological systems, urban forestry research using interdisciplinary methods and theory is beginning to become more common. In this paper, we surveyed educators and leaders of urban forestry and/or arboriculture programs across the world to examine the interdisciplinary basis of these programs. We summarize here the responses of 116 institutions of higher education (85 within the United States) with urban forestry and/or arboriculture coursework. Seventy-four percent of institutions considered urban forestry/arboriculture to be interdisciplinary. Some disciplines (e.g., biology/ecology, forestry) are already very incorporated into their program's current curriculum, and the importance of several other disciplines is recognized even while incorporation is not yet fully realized (e.g., urban planning, natural resource management, environmental science/studies). However, many major disciplines that have relevance to urban forestry/arboriculture are not rated as particularly important to the field, much less incorporated into curriculum (e.g., anthropology/sociology, economics, engineering, public policy/public affairs). Our study serves as a foundation on which to begin strengthening the interdisciplinary ties of urban forestry and arboriculture.


Interdisciplinary Higher education Urban forestry Arboriculture 



Special thanks to Jill Johnson, Midwest Urban Forestry Coordinator, U.S. Forest Service Northeastern Area, for sharing lists of urban forestry educators with the authors. We are also grateful to the many individuals who forwarded our survey to their personal and professional networks. We are appreciative of the coordinators of this special issue for organizing this important collection of articles on education in interdisciplinary environmental science and studies, as well as to two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful feedback. Finally, and most importantly, thank you to the many educators who took time to respond to our survey and provided the valuable information on which this article is based.

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Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jess Vogt
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Burnell C. Fischer
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Richard J. Hauer
    • 5
  1. 1.The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy AnalysisIndiana University BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesFurman UniversityGreenvilleUSA
  3. 3.Bloomington Urban Forestry Research Group at the Center for the Study of Institutions Populations and Environmental ChangeIndiana University BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA
  4. 4.School of Public and Environmental AffairsIndiana University BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA
  5. 5.College of Natural ResourcesUniversity of Wisconsin-Stevens PointStevens PointUSA

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