Green infrastructure in cities: the social network

Trees have been around for a long time, and would continue to be without us. We don’t manage them because they need it; we do it because we need it. That means that while good tree management is based on biophysical principals, it is a social activity.

So when we’re trying to create, protect, manage, and maintain green infrastructure in cities, we need to know about the social networks that make it happen (or not).

This week I saw a great presentation by Erika Svendsen and Lindsay Campbell, both research social scientists with the US Forest Service Northern Research Station’s New York City Urban Field Station.


Titled Environmental Governance as a System: Individuals, Organizations, and Stewardship Networks, it talked about natural resources stewardship networks: how they’re connected, who participates (agencies, NGOs, neighborhood groups, individuals), and how the number and strength of connections affect flows of information and influence.


These network maps show how the urban forestry network (on the left), a highly professional, agency supported, somewhat centralized network compares to the urban agriculture a network, a highly decentralized, grass roots network. Understanding these networks is very important to improving access and engagement for interested parties.

This talk was fascinating and very useful to anyone involved in civic engagement or natural resources stewardship. You can access the recorded seminar, hosted by the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast, here.

Thanks to the US Forest Service Northern Research Station for reminding us that it takes a lot more than “green side up” to help people + trees in cities coexist and flourish.