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).
We are hereby announcing the International Conference Urban Forests – Full of Energy taking place inCologne, Germany, from 22 – 24 May 2019 and call for abstracts to contribute to our discussions. Deadline for abstract submission is 1 February 2019
THE CONFERENCE AND VENUE
Since 20 years, the European Forum on Urban Forestry (EFUF) is a unique meeting place for forest and greenspace managers, planners, architects, researchers, public authorities and policy makers to share interdisciplinary experience and good practices within the field of urban greening, urban forests and urban forestry.
Urban forests are vibrant places for multifaceted recreational activities, social gathering and mental restoration, but also provide biomass for an urban bioeconomy. They are full of energy. And so is the venue of this years’ conference: the German Sport University Cologne – the perfect location to explore energetic interactions of trees and human beings.
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”.
How can we approach young urban populations and inform them about the importance of forest use and protection? The easiest way might be to connect an important function of the forest and an important part of their life: recreation.
When we asked the participants of the “Mighty Forest Event” on Saturday, September 15th in Düsseldorf, what the forest means to them, said young urban population confirmed this connection. We were happy to hear numerous statements like “The forest is a place to relax”; “We enjoy the fresh air provided by the trees”; as well as: “I like to walk or do sports in the forest”.
As the name might suggest, the event was all about sneakers and forests. Afew, a fashionable sneakers store in Düsseldorf, designed and produced the sneaker “Mighty Forest” with a few extra details to support reforestation and to raise awareness of the situation of forests worldwide. The release took place in the framework of the “German Forest days” (Deutsche Waldtage), where organizations and institutions all over Germany organized events in and around the forests with a special focus on sports and recreation. The “Mighty forest” was limited to 300 pairs. As part of the project, Afew supports the planting of ten trees with the help of Plant-for-the-Planet for every pair of sneakers they sell. We as European Forest Institute’s Resilience Programme provided the project with the scientific knowledge behind the booklet which educates about crucial forest related facts and accompanied each pair of sneakers.
A new University College London (UCL) study, published in Carbon Balance and Management, used publicly-available airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data collected by the UK Environment Agency, combined with ground-based LiDAR measurements, to generate a map of carbon stored in an estimated 85,000 trees across the London Borough of Camden.
According to the researchers, urban forest can contain as much carbon as tropical rainforests. They found that areas such as Hampstead Heath store up to 178 tonnes of carbon per ha, in comparison to the median value for tropical rainforests of 190 tonnes of carbon per ha.
“The trees in our cities are important. They matter because they are close to people and are a key component of our urban environment providing beauty, shade and homes for myriad species as well as absorbing carbon and pollutants. The work being carried out at UCL is adding color and detail to this understanding,” said Sir Harry Studholme, Chair of the Forestry Commission.
LiDAR uses millions of laser pulses to build a very detailed picture of the 3D structure of trees. This allows the team to accurately estimate how much carbon the trees have absorbed via photosynthesis during their lives. It also allows them to estimate the carbon sink provided by urban trees, important for helping to offset fossil fuel emissions.
In New York City, urban forests are heavily used for recreation, reports the article A Plan for New York City’s Forests. Yes, Forests., recently published by The New York Times. Unfortunately, city forests in the Big Apple are at stake: Due to climate change and invasive species that can change soil conditions, they risk losing wildlife and plants. A nonprofit group called the Natural Areas Conservancy therefore focuses on how to prepare the city’s forests for a changing climate, supposing that urban forests will be affected a generation or two before differences begin to appear in rural areas. This involves planting tree species resilient to climate change and – of course – requires financial investment. “Now, in close consultation with the Parks Department, the conservancy has prepared a long-term plan for the care of the city’s forests, what it says is the first of its kind in the nation. The conservancy is eager to export it and is training other nonprofit groups in the city to use data from the survey to their advantage”, states the article. More information on how the future urban forest should look like you will find here.
Happy International Day of Forests – and also happy 25th anniversary to European Forest Institute! Check out our new video telling the story how forests can help to build sustainable cities and make them climate-smart.
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.