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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Smarter forests for smarter cities? : an exploration of digital and smart technologies in urban forest management Nitoslawski, Sophie


Urban forests are recognised as integral to urban sustainability and liveability due to their multifunctional contributions to positive ecological, economic, health, and social outcomes. Recently, digital-based technologies are increasingly garnering attention, with dialogues about the use of data and connected technologies in urban planning and service delivery proliferating among municipal stakeholders. As practitioners are faced with demand to support and address broader sustainability and resiliency objectives, it is unclear how more ubiquitous digital practices may shape the planning and management of urban forests and green spaces. To address this gap, this dissertation (1) introduces and discusses frameworks for understanding and studying the integration of digital and smart technologies in urban forest management, (2) identifies current and emerging trends for technology applications in forested ecosystems, (3) explores practitioner perspectives of technology adoption in urban forestry and green space management, and (4) tests the use of two emerging digital technologies, consumer remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS, or drones) and smartphone-location data, through a case study of urban parks in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The research found that remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) are most frequently used for mapping and inventory purposes, while newer applications include sensing devices and networks, mobile tracking, and values elicitation. In the context of new technology adoption, practitioners expressed both concern about organisational capacity, expertise, and data usage and reliability, in addition to interest in the collection of finer-scale social and ecological data to inform management, planning, and policy. To this end, the testing of RPAS and smartphone data highlighted opportunities for practitioners to bridge social and ecological data gaps in urban park management, and presented a novel approach for identifying and assessing technology adoption opportunities in urban forestry. The overarching goal of this work is to advance understanding at the intersection of technology and forests, paving the way for future theoretical, methodological, and empirical research examining relationships between people, nature, and technology, as we tackle critical environmental problems in this digital age.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International