Urban Forest Governance in the Face of Pulse Disturbances—Canadian Experiences
Cecil C. Konijnendijk, Lorien Nesbitt, and Zach Wirtz
Abstract: The sustainable provision of urban forest benefits can be threatened by the occurrence of sudden, major disturbance events, such as forest fires, insect outbreaks, and extreme weather events, which are considered to be “pulse” disturbance events from a socio-ecological systems perspective. Sound urban forestry programs are needed to prepare for these disturbances and reduce their negative impacts. To investigate the role of governance in building more resilient urban forest socio-ecological systems, the relation between pulse disturbances and urban forest governance was studied in 4 Canadian cities. Our study of local urban forestry included expert interviews with local urban forest governance actors, document analysis, and site visits. The Policy Arrangement Approach was applied to structure and analyse urban forest governance. Findings show that all cities had seen a development of their urban forestry programs and governance over time, such as development of staff and formal plans, as well as alliances with key partners. Pulse disturbances seem to have played an important role in the development and sometimes reorientation of urban forestry programs. Although disturbances often had devastating impacts, having a strong urban forestry program in place, including strong alliances with, e.g., industry partners or NGOs, was considered important for handling the aftermath of these events. Efforts had also been made to be better prepared for future disturbances through further professionalisation, development of plans, guidelines, and best practices, capacity building through partnerships, and setting up better real-life information systems in support of decision making. Results can inform urban forest governance and urban forestry programs in Canadian cities and elsewhere.
Keywords: Disturbance; Environmental Decision Making; Policy; Pulse Dynamics; Urban Forestry.