Young urban trees as important structures in the cultural heritage of cities – a case study from Prague

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Urban trees generate numerous ecosystem services, and these are often closely associated with the species, age and size of trees as well as with their vitality. Generally, the focus of urban and regional planning is aimed at very large trees, because very large trees are considered to be key green structures in an urban green infrastructure. However, there is a significant knowledge gap related to the importance of young trees in cities, despite their value in urban green spaces, greenways, parks, gardens, urban forests, and as components of green roofs and green walls. This study is the result of field mapping young trees in the urban area of the famous European historical city of Prague. Field mapping revealed a total of 40 individual young trees, or young tree groups, with cultural value in the study area of Prague. The results of this empirical study indicate that young trees (not just very large and old trees) can be very important structures for the provision of cultural ecosystem services in cities, and that they can be viewed as living cultural symbols. This is a new aspect in the awareness of the environmental and social roles of urban trees. This case study from Prague suggests that (i) young trees in urban areas need more attention from researchers and (ii) should be incorporated into urban planning as an important component of urban green infrastructure.

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