Urban Forestry in a Time of Climate Change: Can Seattle, Washington Become More Resilient Through the Effective Management of Urban Forests?
Titcomb, Sarah Nicole
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University of Washington Abstract Urban Forestry in a Time Of Climate Change: Can Seattle, Washington become more Resilient through the Effective Management Of Urban Forests? Sarah N. Titcomb Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Professor Marina Alberti, PhD Urban Design and Planning Background: There are hundreds of significant problems that confront cities on a daily basis. This thesis focuses on climate change in particular because it is one of the most important and uncertain problems that our cities face. As scientists and policy makers begin to reach consensus about the possible impacts of climate change, urban resilience has become an increasingly hot topic. Urban resilience is defined as the ability of a city to maintain its functions after disturbances disrupt the normal feedback loops that makes city life possible. There are several possible strategies to enhance urban resilience, although this thesis will focus on urban forests. Urban forests are the trees and associated shrubbery present in city parks, right-of-ways, and private gardens. Seattle is used as a case study within this thesis. Questions: What is the capacity of urban forests to support urban resilience in the face of climate change impacts in Seattle? And how can Seattle's current Urban Forest Stewardship Plan (UFSP) be improved to achieve resilience when considering climate change? Methodology: The current literature on the benefits and costs of urban forests is explored to justify how they can work to support urban resilience in general. An adapted scenario planning approach is utilized to identify four plausible futures for Seattle based on the interactions of drivers and variables within two alternative states. The resilience within each future is examined through 14 resilience indicators adapted from the seven qualities of a resilient city from the Rockefeller Foundation. The indicators speak specifically to the resilience of Seattle’s urban forest, which in turn speaks to the city’s urban resilience. Results/Conclusion: The management of urban forests plays a significant role in maintaining urban resilience. Yet if it is not coupled with global reductions in greenhouse gases, the urban forest cannot be enough to provide mitigation. The thesis makes five recommendations to Seattle’s existing UFSP in order to increase the ability of urban forests to help the city adapt to and mitigate against climate change. The adoption of these recommendations by the city might allow Seattle to achieve resilience in the face of uncertain climate change impacts.
- Urban planning