“When we pay attention to nature’s music, we find that everything on earth contributes to its harmony.” – Hazrat Inayat Khan
Twenty first century cities are characterized by tall skyscrapers, high residential densities, improved public transport infrastructure, as well as buildings of historical heritage. More people are moving from rural to urban areas, with the proportion of global urban population set to increase from 14% in 1900 to over 66% in 2025.
It is unfortunate that despite this trend, many urban areas lack adequate green infrastructure thus the ratio of green areas to built up areas is low. This gives inhabitants the feeling that they live in a ‘concrete jungle’ and are divorced from the natural world, contrary to earlier times when trees had a dominant influence upon human life and were sacred in many cultures.
In the final working week of 2018, we received the confirmation that the EFI-coordinated CLEARING HOUSE project on urban forest-based solutions (UFBS) has been selected for funding by the European Commission. EFI will coordinate 27 project partners from Europe and China in a joint European-Chinese Collaborative Learning project on the role of Urban Forest-based solutions for sustainable urbanisation and resilient cities.
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.