Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

The living among the dead: cemeteries as urban forests, now and in the future.

Abstract

In the face of increasing population and urbanization, cities are trying to reconcile built infrastructure designed to accommodate human needs while also retaining and improving urban tree canopies. Given the diverse locations in which trees currently exist within cities, including public and private property, gardens, parks, and abandoned lots, we discuss the overlooked contribution of cemeteries to the urban forest. Specifically, we discuss the potential to expand the urban forest through planting trees in the cemeteries of Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada). The objectives of our research were to (1) characterize the existing tree populations in Halifax cemeteries, and (2) estimate how many trees could be planted within these cemeteries. Our research indicates that Halifax cemeteries are dominated by non-native species such as Acer platanoides, Tilia cordata, and Ulmus glabra. Smaller trees are mostly limited to small copses comprised of dense regenerating stock, while the majority of area within cemeteries contains only larger and older trees. Limited natural regeneration and planting efforts, combined with the large size of Halifax's cemetery trees, indicates the likelihood of future canopy losses. However, this study also found over 2000 spots in which trees could be planted in the 27.5 ha of Halifax cemeteries, indicating that their tree populations could be almost doubled. Barriers such as financial limitations and hesitancy to plant trees amongst monuments need to be addressed and consideration needs to be given to the relationship between cemetery users and trees to determine how best to maintain (and potentially expand) the urban forest within cemeteries.