Dedicated to bring urban forestry and its benefits to people. Contracted expert for urban forestry at the European Forest Institute (www.efi.int). PhD on mainstreaming social representations on ecosystem services in planning processes (www.vub.ac.be).
Member of the International Steering Committee and webmaster at www.efuf.org.
EFI and EFUF combining strengths to facilitate urban forest-based solutions employment in Europe
The majority of Europeans are now living in cities and urban agglomerations, facing several environmental issues – including climate change. However, cities are also major drivers and facilitators in finding solutions for handling these challenges. Urban forests – trees, woodlands and forests in and around cities – can play an important role in the transition towards urban resilience and a green and sustainable economy.
Building on their mutual strengths, the European Forest Institute (EFI) and the European Forum on Urban Forestry (EFUF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding strategic collaboration on research and policy in the field of urban forestry on Friday, 30th November 2018. This collaboration will further the understanding of the potential of urban forests, forestry, nature-, and bio-based solutions in supporting the development of sustainable cities. Both organisations will jointly develop a strategic approach to facilitate the employment of urban forest-based solutions in European cities, through coordinated communication, research and development efforts. Throughout the collaboration, EFI’s forest-based scientific experience and its European-wide science-policy network and EFUF’s multidisciplinary network with local authorities, practitioners and researchers will be complementary in developing a stronger discourse on urban forest-based solutions.
A first common initiative developed within the MoU framework, is the launch of the Call for Abstracts for the 22nd session of the European Forum on Urban Forestry in Cologne (Germany). The EFUF2019 conference has been branded “Urban Forests: Full of Energy” and will focus on the role of urban forests as providers of energy, both through woody biomass and through physical activity, art, learning and collaborative working. EFUF is organised at the “Waldlabor” (Forestlab) in Cologne, which is a magnificent place for exchanging knowledge based on participatory science and experiments.
Can urban foresters really win the minds and hearts of urban dwellers when stressing the ecosystem services forests and trees provide?
Street trees are contested elements in the urban landscape, and the source of many complaints towards local authorities and tree managing agencies. Discussions on street trees can be intense and emotional, so it is good to understand where the discussions are grounded in and to understand citizens’ relations with trees. In this post I will explore if we can build on the concept of social representations to find win-win solutions regarding urban tree management.
Social representations explain how different social groups develop different understandings of an issue, based on their values, understanding, beliefs, knowledge, practice etc (Moscovici 2000; Buijs et al. 2008). They are not individual cognitive representations, but socially constructed through social interaction, both within and between groups (Buijs et al. 2011).
Planting trees is a longstanding traditional urban planning approach for improving liveability in cities. Dating back from the earliest urban societies such as the Roman Empire, urban planners have applied trees for bringing shade, mitigating temperature, rainfall and wind, and providing food and fodder for animals. Providing urban trees, parks and urban forests is probably one of the earliest applications of what is now termed “nature-based solutions”. Nature-based solutions are defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”.
UNECE/FAO published a discussion paper on “Green Jobs in the Forest Sector” . The study provides an overview of existing Green Forest Jobs and identifies possible areas for future activities and jobs in the forest sector, and may serve as starting point for further analysis and discussion on the future of Green Forest Jobs. It offers a framework for classifying Green Forest Jobs under seven thematic work areas, outlined in the seven main sections of the study, with a particular focus on major trends, needs and challenges as well as opportunities and prospects for the forest sector. Urban foresters will be mainly interested in the work area “Social and Urban Development” (including Urban Forestry, Arboriculture, and a “Culture and Forests” section), but also the section on “Health and Recreation” is a must-read.
End of January, I (the urban forestry consultant at EFI’s Resilience Programme) was invited by the Beijing Forestry and Parks Department of International Cooperation for a study visit and a training on urban forestry. China is one of the leading countries when it comes to afforestation: in 2018 alone, about 6.6 million hectare new forests (or the size or Ireland) will be planted. The new forests are not only situated in the rural areas, but also in and near urban agglomerations. In the last Beijing province (area: 16.000 km², inhabitants: 22 million) for example, about 67.000 ha additional forest has been planted over five years, mainly for landscape and aesthetical reasons, but also for recreation purposes. In the next five years, they are aiming for an additional similar area.
The study tour started in one of the mayor urban redevelopment projects that Beijing has seen: the 2008 Olympic Quarter. The Olympic Park (680 ha) has been built on former built-up area and farmland, and is situated at the central North-South axis through Beijing which connects the Olympic Park with the central Tiananmen Square. The park includes an artificial lake where soil was reused for building an artificial hill. The composition of the park follows the traditional Chinese design of building with the back to the hills and the front to the water.