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Greening tomorrow’s cities today

Uforest, a Knowledge Alliance project co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission, aims to contribute to the development of entrepreneurial and innovation approaches within the sphere of urban forestry through developing diverse partnerships with universities, cities, businesses, public administrations, NGOs and local citizens. In so doing, the Project seeks to redefine the Urban Forestry sector through nurturing a culture of collaboration and cross-sector working to develop an Alliance of urban forestry stakeholders across Europe. Even though the project is coming to an end in December 2023, U-forest took very practical steps to promote green spaces in cities.

Uforest’s from knowledge to action approach

Part of the project were several educational activities, the preparation of technical guidance and diverse events programmes. Significantly though, Uforest transcends the theory, as clearly highlighted through the inauguration of its annual “European Urban Forest Week” which was held during the first week of December 2023; what better present could Santa and his elves bring than newly planted forests, in once sterile ground! 

Although, the Uforest European Urban Forest Week took place over only several days, the impact of the project promises to create an enduring legacy for many years to come. The new forests will provide environmental, social and health benefits to local residents, both for present and for future generations. Each newly planted urban forest is designed to address the specific needs of the different localities and the aspirations of the local communities concerned.

The weeks program unfolded with local planting events taking place across four different European cities (reflecting the partner organisations’ locations) resulting in four new urban forests, which were established in collaboration with the WOW nature platform.

The four new urban forests are:

Dublin (Ireland): the Darndale Donut

On 1st December 2023, a new urban forest has been planted in Dublin’s Darndale Park, a popular meeting place for students and sport clubs. The objective of the project has been to provide a green space for people to spend time together, to enjoy nature and to be used for future environmental education initiatives. The trees provide a shelter from the wind and enhance the setting of an existing fishpond. To define the space better and to create a sense of seclusion for visitors, the forest has been planted in the shape of a donut, with the trees form the outer ring. We were thrilled to see such a massive turnout of enthusiastic individuals – their dedication and passion for a greener Dublin was truly inspiring!

Brasov (Romania): Smart-Tech Forest

The new Romanian urban forest is located in a lowland area close to the city of Brasov. The peri-urban area is already well known for its native trees and wildlife. A range of sensors (meteorological, pedological and spectral sensors) have been installed to monitor environmental variables within the new planted woodland area, thereby gathering important information about the characteristics of the location. This project and the launch of the new forest had a significant impact especially on the forestry students at the University of Brasov, who not only had the opportunity to deepen their studies with more practical activities but also contributed with great interest, participation, and hard work.

Milan (Italy): Tiny Forests

On 2nd December 2023, the Villa Fiorita area in Cernusco sul Naviglio saw the creation of a new urban forest. This area, which was formerly a unmanaged green space, lacked environmental and recreational value. The goal has been to create two tiny forests along with an area of mixed woodland and shrub planting to both maximise the available space and to enhance it with more diverse tree species. This initiative aligns with FORESTAMI’s goal to plant 3 million trees across the Metropolitan City of Milan by 2030.

The event started “indoor” by showcasing the projects of the students from our course “Greening your City” which inspired the design of the new green area. Following that, despite the rain, the planting of the first trees took place with a determined team and great enthusiasm.

Barcelona (Spain): Climatic Refugia

The Spanish new urban forest, last but not least, is quite special because it will be implemented with “Bosc Glial”, the winning project of the Uforest Innovation Challenge. It is a core part of the Uforest Specialisation School, where students work on a real urban forestry solution taking into consideration different aspects like administrative and ecological constraints, communication, stakeholder engagement, biodiversity conservation and climate change-related challenges.

The jury of the Uforest Innovation Challenge (composed of different experts from the Uforest partnership), evaluated the works based on three main criteria: innovation, impact and scalability. Finding one winner has been hard because of the excellent ideas presented.

On 5th December 2023, the climatic refugia on the campus of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, more specifically in the “Plaça del Coneixement” was launched. The goal of this project has been to provide shadow and heat mitigation while promoting biodiversity conservation and reasonable use of water. Finally, the climatic refugia aimed at engaging students thanks to an educational and social space into the square featuring an open library.

Do you want to join us?
You can take up the invitation to play an active role in a Uforest project by adopting a tree. If you’re an individual there’s the possibility to adopt a tree from the WOW nature platform for the Darndale Donut forest (Ireland): https://www.wownature.eu/en/wow-area/darndale-donut/ or if you are a business/company, you can support the Tiny Forest (Italy) also throught the WoWnature platform: https://www.wownature.eu/en/wow-area/tiny-forest-milan. This initiative offers a chance for individuals to establish a personal commitment for the future forest, assisting its development and directly contributing to the sustainable future of established communities. Your involvement matters. Together, we can create a greener, more vibrant tomorrow for all.

Uforest’s legacy in addition to the new urban forests

Although U-forest is coming to an end, there will be a continuing legacy from the Uforest Alliance as a network of researchers, policymakers and practitioners. Without any doubt, we can say that the success of the initiative (under the effective co-ordination and leadership of ETIFOR), owes much to the hard work of diverse European partner organisations and to their enthusiastic spirit of collaboration. The EFI Urban forestry team in Bonn (Rik de Vreese, Ian Whitehead, Mariateresa Montisci and Clive Davis) has been able to add significant value to the outcomes of the project through providing their own detailed technical knowledge of urban forestry and through linking the work of Uforest with their extensive European and global networks and other relevant projects like CLEARING HOUSE. Indeed, all the Uforest partners have made significant contributions which very much reflect their own professional areas of expertise and strengths. Along with ETIFOR and EFI, the Uforest partners included ERSAF, Politecnico di Milano, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, CREAF, Agresta, the Transilvania University of Brasov, Forest Design, Trinity College Dublin, Nature Based Solutions Institute and Green City Watch.

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