by JF Dwyer, HW Schroeder, PH Gobster

Journal of Arboriculture 17(10):276-284


In recent years, the focus of urban forestry has shifted to place more value on the ecosystem services trees provide, with quantification and dollar values assigned. This paper offers a different emphasis, considering the deep, strong bonds people feel for trees. The authors spent a decade studying how people perceive and use trees and forests. Here they argue that these quantitative statistical models and predictive equations fail to capture completely the deep emotional ties people have with trees. The paper begins with quotations from respondents to their earlier work illustrating the significance of trees and continues with descriptions and examples of some of the themes the authors have noticed over the course of their research. These themes include the importance of the sensory dimensions of trees, the symbolic value of trees both as symbols of people and as religious symbols, and the roots of humans in the forest. Deep-seated fears of forests are also discussed. The authors conclude by emphasizing that urban forest managers and policy makers, who may prefer rational justifications to support funding for tree planting and care, should not neglect these human emotions and values.

Publication Type: Journal article
Keywords: contact with nature, ecosystem services, human health and well-being, surveys and interviews, urban forest management, urban forestry, and urban nature