About the Bloomington Urban Forestry Research Group (BUFRG) at CIPEC
More than half the world's population now lives in urban areas and that figure is projected to increase in the future. Increasing urban populations have resulted in tremendous pressure on urban environments including urban forests, or all the vegetation in an urban area, which provide important positive externalities to urban residents. Urban forests provide ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration and storage, energy savings and shade, stormwater runoff mitigation, aesthetic benefits, and attenuation of the effects of the urban heat island. Yet, urban growth has resulted in a decline in urban forest structure and related function in the United States, elevating the importance of research to understand how the interactions between people, their institutions, and the biophysical environment influence the sustainability of urban ecosystems.
At the IU Bloomington Urban Forestry Research Group at CIPEC (BUFRG), we study the urban forest as a social-ecological system, a conceptualization that enables researchers and managers to better understand the factors that influence sustainable urban forest outcomes and provision of ecosystem services. We believe that the urban forest is best understood and studied as a social-ecological system (SES) of linked human and natural components, that emphasizes the importance of the interactions between the biophysical resource, the community and its institutions on the production of observed outcomes such as ecosystem services (see Figure 1).
Our work draws from the Social-Ecological Systems Framework developed by the late Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom and colleagues (e.g., Ostrom 2009) and the Model of Sustainable Urban Forestry developed by Jim Clark and colleagues (Clark et al. 1997) to generate an integrative framework to inform our study of the factors that influence the structure and function of vegetation in cities (see Table 1 below). This Urban Forests as Social-Ecological Systems framework informs the research questions, variable selection, and study systems in all BUFRG projects.
Literature Cited on this page
Clark, J.R., Matheny, N.P., Cross, G., and Wake, V. 1997. A model of urban forest sustainability. Journal of Arboriculture 23(1), 17-30.
Ostrom, E. 2009. A general framework for analyzing the sustainability of social-ecological systems. Science 325: 419-422.
IU News Room press release: Indiana University, "Excellence in Research" Campus Sustainability Award, 2012.
Indiana Urban Forest Council, Government Entity Award for Promoting Urban Forestry to IUB SPEA for the Development of an Urban Forest Management Course, 2007.