EFUF 2016 Spotlight: Interview With Pieter Wieringa

In our new blog post we present Pieter Wieringa, the winner of the #EFUF2016 blog competition! In this short interview you can find out all about the background of his winning blog, his visit to EFUF 2016 and what he has been up to lately.

First of all Pieter, congratulations on your excellent blog. Was it a new research you have done for the blog or have you published it before?

The research was done in the framework of writing a new masterplan for the city of Ploiesti. Romanian cities are obligated to renew their masterplan every 10 years. In the first phase of the masterplan I visited every area of the city in search of green resources. I really wanted to have a proper picture of urban greenspaces irrespective of ownership, functionality, accessibility and quality. After identifying and mapping these green resources we realized the city has vast green resources, especially near railway infrastructure and brownfields. So in the first phase we recommended the city council to look for solutions on how to incorporate and harvest this green change. The blog was in fact a condensed version of our background study in Ploiesti. So far the city council has not published our recommendations on their site or anywhere else.

We hope your work is recognized by the city authorities for the good of the city. We are curious – has your life has changed in any way due to publishing the blog and winning the EFUF2016 blog competition? If so, what did it bring?

As a result of the blog competition I was able to attend EFUF 2016 in Ljubljana. Otherwise I would not have been able to visit Slovenia. It was very refreshing to meet so many people active in urban forestry from across Europe and Asia. It was fascinating to hear about the current developments in urban forestry, especially about the different types of problems and solutions regarding nature in cities across Europe. On a personal level it inspired me to think bigger and perhaps set up an urban forestry platform in Romania where research and best practices can be collected and are freely accessible to everyone.
Furthermore, the city of Ploiesti has a new mayor and already we look forward to be working with him in the second phase of the masterplan. Thanks to the EFUF recognition of the Ploiesti blog I can demonstrate that planning for nature is a common practice in many other countries and that urban nature is an asset, not a disadvantage.

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Pieter Wieringa at EFUF 2016 in Ljubljana

We are really glad to hear that. In your blog you wrote about abandoned industries (brownfields). What would your ideas or suggestions for their management in the city of Ploiesti and elsewhere be?

This is something we will have to explore in the second phase of the Ploiesti masterplan. I would like to see a partnership between the city and the oil refineries in creating and/or enlarging micro forest protection belt encircling them. The industrial forest protection belt would be multifunctional – reducing noise and pollutants as well as producing biomass.
The industrial forest protection belts and brownfields could become a source of renewable energy production. The trees on these sites could be harvested for the purpose of producing biofuels and/or contributing directly to the local state heating infrastructure through clean incineration. The city could put financial incentives in place through which factory owners could be persuaded to create a start-up company in biofuel production. Another use of low quality timber harvest could lay in plastic production. Wood fibres are an excellent alternative for plastics as opposed to petroleum based plastics.
Furthermore, some of these brownfields are genuine pleasant places to be. I am sure sporting events could be organized on the sites proven to be safe from pollution. The industrial heritage green run perhaps?

You really see a lot of potential uses for brownfields that mostly just stay untapped. What are the main challenges facing you in the field of urban forestry?

One of the main challenges in urban forestry is the lack of awareness of its potential. In Romania’s larger cities nature is starting to receive more attention, but in regional cities like Ploiesti that is simply not on the agenda. When there are funds, the city council prefers to spend them in health care, road infrastructure, employment and waste management.
Another problem is pollution. During the communist era the main theme was production at any cost. Consequently, some areas in the vicinity of chemical factories are probably polluted, but there is not enough publicly available data on that. There is still a large number of polluted former factories in Romania that need investments to be decontaminated.

One of the EFUF 2016 messages was that if there was any better time to invest in urban forestry, it would be now. We hope it gets accross. What are you currently working on and what is your plan for the future?

Very soon we hope to found The Făgăraș Research and Policy Institute. The institute would conduct and develop relevant research related to the Făgăraș area, such as pushing for the creation of a new natural park in the nearby Făgăraș Mountains (Romania’s tallest mountains) with sustainable forestry and ecoturism in mind as well as experiments in urban forestry in the city of Făgăraș.

That sounds wonderful, good luck with the institute. Now that we have come to the end of the interview, what is it that will you remember most about EFUF 2016 and your visit to Slovenia?

What I will remember most about Slovenia is her nature and appreciation for it. As I have seen in Ljubljana and Celje, it really is possible to employ nature as an equally important tool for progress and development. I was really happy to meet so many people from different backgrounds at EFUF 2016 who are passionate about urban forestry. The format of the conference was also really good – with very interesting presentations in the mornings and with informal discussions over a pint of Slovenian beer in the evenings. This allowed me to fully understand the work and research involved! I really enjoyed meeting so many people at EFUF 2016 and I would like to thank the Slovenian Forestry Institute and Slovenia Forestry Service in Celje for the support. Perhaps one day I can return the favour and see all you urban foresters in Romania!

Thank you Pieter, we wish you all the best in your future work!

Pieter Wieringa was interviewed by Anita Mašek (Slovenian Forestry Institute). You can read Pieter’s winning blog here.

#EFUF2016 Communications Team: A Story by Boris

It was the final session of the 19th European Forum on Urban Forestry in the Palatium hall of Ljubljana Castle, Slovenia. The participants were applauding while I was presenting the winners of the #EFUF2016 blog competition. Speaking on the big stage, my stomach felt a bit jittery – the sleep deprived nights that led up to the event finale and heavy coffee consumption were starting to leave an impact.

A few moments earlier I presented the current on-line and social media statistics of the EFUF 2016 social media coverage. During the 5 days of the Forum, over 1000 tweets were sent and delivered over 140.000 times to almost 25.000 different Twitter accounts. Over 5000 people were reached on Facebook and 600 people were informed daily through our mailing list. The live webcast of the opening and plenary session had over 700 live views. More importantly, our contributions were seen, read and recognized by the members of urban forestry communities from all over the world.

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#EFUF2016 Communications Team at Ljubljana Castle (top from left to right: Natalija, Magda, Špela, Anita, Ana, Janez, Boris; bottom: Saša, Urša; missing: Liza, Luka, Andrej, Boštjan, Robert).

After handing the certificate of recognition and microphone to Pieter Wieringa, author of the winning blog, I left the stage and sat down with happy and fulfilling thoughts racing through my mind. The first stop was Durban, South Africa. I remembered learning about the power and the art of social media reporting from my personal guru (although he hates to be called that), Peter Casier at the #Forests2015 Social Media Bootcamp. What an experience! Intense, draining and fulfilling at the same time. When it was over, I made a promise to myself that I will try to repeat it as soon as possible.

My thoughts then shifted to early October of the same year. I remembered presenting the concept of the #EFUF2016 communication activities to Andrej (head of the organizational committee) and getting a puzzled, yet optimistic go-ahead from him. I remembered the recruitment process – persuading co-workers, presentation at the university, mass-emails, etc.  It wasn’t easy because team members had to invest several hours of volunteer work per week in addition to their busy work and private schedules. In return, they were promised to learn how to use social media to their advantage.

In December 2015, the team was complete and the communication strategy was prepared. I remembered the tilted heads of the more experienced team members, while they were overlooking the blueprints of our ambitious strategy for the first time. To make sure that the strategy would be properly implemented, we had weekly meetings, where we learned the art of blogging and of using different tools to disseminate the blogs and other content. We planned, executed and adjusted.

When most preparations were done, we stopped meeting – the “infrastructure” was in place, the team was trained, and there were other priorities that needed addressing.

May 2016, while looking like a great month retrospectively, was at moments a personal hell. In one or another role (organizer, speaker, lecturer …), I took part in 3-4 communication and dissemination activities of our Slovenian Forestry Institute and the project I manage (LIFEGENMON) per week. Not being a total extrovert and sometimes still learning on the job, such an amount of organization, management and public speaking was very difficult to handle. The members of our team mostly come from our Institute, and while their enthusiasm and work ethic could never be questioned, the team spirit started to slowly dissipate in the second half of the month because of the (too) demanding workload.

Then came the last week of May 2016 – the week of the EFUF. We were all working on fumes then and I wasn’t sure about how the communications team would work in action. We met extensively on Monday and Tuesday, created a detailed plan with roles for each team member and did the final tweaks of the online infrastructure. Some of the points on our to-do list had to be abandoned because of lack of time. On Tuesday evening, after the preparations were complete (and all of the twitterfall screens set up :)), I was still uneasy and had my doubts, but I was confident that we did all that we could to prepare for the Forum.

On Wednesday, the opening day of the Forum, magic happened. The plan was seamlessly implemented while I stood and watched in awe. Tweets were flying, photos were uploaded nearly automatically, blogs were produced almost in real-time, and the online urban forestry community took notice. Over 1000 tweets were sent…

… and then my name was called. I wasn’t expecting to be called on stage again, but it started to light upon me just a little bit before it happened – when the words “communication” and “dissemination” were spoken. Cecil Konijnendijk van den Bosch and Clive Davies were presenting the Young European Urban Forester of the Year 2016 Award and I was selected as the runner-up. The path to the stage was blurry, and luckily I wasn’t offered to give a speech. Everybody was clapping and people were offering to shake my hand and patting me on the back but I couldn’t really respond because I was so shocked and confused.

One could argue that being a runner-up for such an award isn’t a big deal, and one could agree. But to me it really means a lot, not because of the diploma, but because of all of the sincere congratulations I’ve received and the recognition of the hard work the #EFUF2016 Communications team put in, often at the expense of their personal and family time.

Thank you!

Boris

Photos: Urban Ušeničnik (find more photos on Flickr)

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#EFUF2016 final twitter statistics and a Facebook comment (sources: keyhole.co, Facebook)

 

European Young Urban Forester 2016 comes from Germany!

Dr. Mohammad Asrafur Rahman, currently working as a Humboldt post-doctoral Research Fellow at Technical University of Munich, applied and won a competition for European Young Urban Forester of the Year 2016. He will be awarded with commendation, cash award and free subscription for one year to Urban Forestry Urban Greening!

Awarding committee, led by Clive Davies, recognized excellence of Dr. Mohammad A. Rahman in urban forestry practice and urban forestry research. His PhD thesis entitled “Effects of Species and Rooting Conditions on the Growth and Cooling Performance of Urban Trees” was awarded the “Outstanding PhD Award” with seven research articles published in journals of academic repute. His academic expertise and research experience made him a suitable candidate for the award 2016 and we hope it will further encourage his devotion in the field of Urban Forestry.

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Field experiment of  Dr. Mohammad A.Rahman

Your favourite urban forest? Where is it, why is it special?

My favourite urban forest is the “Englischer Garten” situated within the centre of the bustling city of Munich, Germany. With an area of 3.7 km2, the Englischer Garten is one of the Europe’s largest urban public parks stretching from the city centre to the northeastern city limits. Due to its location and offerings of numerous services it attracts both locals and tourists equally.  Cyclists and hikers can enjoy a 78-kilometer-long network of green paths surrounded by dark stands of mature oak and maple before emerging to a beautiful vista of the city offered by the Monopteros along with the hill. If not, they will surely find Kleinhesseloher See, a lovely lake at the centre of the park or a beer garden right by the Chinese Tower. This 370 hectare urban forest is not only serving the society as an natural recreational area but also as the green lung for over a million people living in the Munich’s agglomeration.

Which tree represents your personality and why?

I think maple tree represents me better. One of the dominant urban tree species which can adapts to situations with tolerance to hard conditions. With full of imaginations and originality I can see the appeal of living in a city. Self-confident; however, often shy, always keen to learn new experiences and deep dense extended canopy to shade the people underneath. With its magical autumn color it provides the comfort and support to people in their personal journey.

In your country of current residence – are urban forests more important than »regular, non-urban« forests?

In Germany, people have started to realize the importance of urban forests more than ever. Since most of the people now live in compacted cities, the urban forests or overall ecosystems already became an absolute necessity to provide environmental, economic and social benefits to them. With ongoing climate change and urbanization the integrated concept of urban greenery has been recognized to improve the quality of urban life and environment.  Most of the residents now want to have denser urban tree canopy to get the proven benefits of trees in a city.

The funniest moment that you experienced in your job?

In June 2015 we were working with Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) devices within a public square in Munich. TLS devices contain two big boxes attached with a computer and obviously with a scanning device, the whole system looks like a movie shooting device especially with other sensing devices attached with the trees. Couple of pedestrians stood there over hours and observed carefully what scene we were shooting :)! After that they approached us and asked whether they are in the film or not. When we explained them we are rather measuring the tree crowns their face became so faint that I can never forget.

What is your opinion on EFUF 2016 organization, its visibility and success?

I think EFUF is a unique platform for urban forestry practitioners; academicians as well as policy makers to stand together and exchange views. On the onset of gradual recognition of Urban Forestry as a profession this Forum can play a vital role in harmonizing cross-boundary co-operation in terms of what we already know, what we don’t know and what need to be done in future. In this regard this Forum has made significant progress within last few years and the annual meetings are getting increasingly successful. However, I still believe this is the beginning and we need to make the forum even more visible using as many channels as possible.

More advertisement on social media, printed media as well as more announcements in related conferences would certainly help to make the platform even more inclusive.

Additionally, web hosting of conference talks, live twitting and introduction of more award winning opportunities to join the conference free of cost for few excellent papers might make the upcoming events even more attractive to a range of participants.

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Field experiment of Dr. Mohammad A. Rahman

Dr. Mohammad Rahman was interviewed by Špela Planinšek, Slovenian Forestry Institute. Since he could not attend EFUF meeting in Slovenia, we made an interview with him via mail.

Competition for European Young Urban Forester of the Year is supported by MD2 Consultants Ltd.

EFUF 2016 Begins Tomorrow!

Finally! The big day is almost here. We are honoured to host the 19th European Forum on Urban Forestry in Ljubljana, the European Green Capital of 2016. All preparations for the forum are done. We are expecting urban forestry experts and other interested participants from all over the world. The welcome buffet opens at 6 pm at the Slovenian Forestry Institute, where the participants will get an opportunity to meet, discuss and share experiences and knowledge.

The #EFUF2016 blog competition has covered many different themes about urban forestry. Many blogs were received and published. Every blogger made a quality contribution with their personal aspects on urban forests. Blogs were mainly written in fields of resilience, health and well being, governance and management and city promotion. Thank you all for your comments, likes and sharing on social channels. You can reach our blog collection at https://efuf2016.wordpress.com/.

The participants will get to know Ljubljana and its green infrastructure during presentations, field trips and excursions to other parts of Slovenia. The conference will take place at the Ljubljana Castle and the field trips will be held in the urban forests of Ljubljana and Celje.

The conference will be live streamed on the official website by twitter (#EFUF2016) and other social channels. In case you can’t attend, the #EFUF2016 social media team will try to give you all important facts that will be highlighted during conference.

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The #EFUF2016 Social media team

#EFUF2016 Blog Competition Winner

We are happy to announce the winner of the #EFUF2016 blog competition – it is Pieter Wieringa! Pieter’s contribution stood out for its originality, content and relevance. It represents an unique approach and analysis of most of the main themes that will be discussed at the forthcoming EFUF 2016 conference. We feel Pieter Wieringa’s contribution will make a significant impact in raising awareness and opening discussion about the importance of urban forest conservation, in his own country and beyond.

We would also like to congratulate Naomi Zürcher and John Gallagher, the finalists of the blog competition, for their highly commendable entries!

The winner wins a free full EFUF 2016 conference package, while the finalists will be rewarded with a free Saturday excursion. All three authors also get an opportunity to present the story behind their post at the EFUF 2016 conference, either by oral presentation or by a poster.

The #EFUF2016 blog competition received many diverse and fantastic blogs addressing the challenges of urban forestry. We would like to deeply thank you all for participating and we hope you will be joining us in Ljubljana!

Be sure not to miss our next blog post on the #EFUF2016 blog – we will present the authors of the best blog posts in more detail!

The Winner

“Nature Takes Over: Unexpected Green Change in Ploiesti, Romania” – Pieter Wieringa

Urban forestry in Romania is in its infancy. There are no present discussions taking a more holistic view at urban green spaces in Ploiesti. Based on field research and existing information I was able to create the above map and gather data. (Pieter Wieringa)

Read the whole post

The Finalists

“Resilience” – Naomi Zürcher

Now that most of us are living in cities, we’ve decided we want to put these Forest trees back into our urban landscapes, not the way they were before, not the way they have evolved to exist, but according to our needs and our designs. (Naomi Zürcher)

Read the whole post

“It’s a walk in the park” A green solution to lower air and noise pollution” – John Gallager

Have you ever thought about the route you take to work? Could you take a better route? What is a better route? I ask myself these questions when I make my commute to work every morning.(John Gallagher)

Read the whole post

Photo credit: Paxon Woelber

#EFUF2016 Blog Competition Ends Today!

But not everything is decided yet! There is still chance to change the current score – want to know how? Find out below!

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Competition overview

Researchers, students and fellows participated in the #EFUF2016 blog competition, covering themes of this year’s Forum on Urban Forestry: resilience, health & well-being, governance & management and promotion. The competition was held from March 1st to May 3rd 2016.

We have published 12 competing blog posts from 12 different authors. The blog posts have reached more than 2800 readers from 90 different countries all over the world.

Winner selection process

The #EFUF2016 editorial board is going to review the top 10 blog posts (according to the blog competition rules) and declare the winner of #EFUF2016 blog competition on May 10th. The posts will be assessed by how much feedback they’ve generated from the readers and by the #EFUF2016 editorial board.

Special announcement: you can collect additional likes and shares of your blog until Sunday, May 8th!

The prizes

The author of the best blog post will receive a free full EFUF2016 conference package, including the Saturday excursion. Second best two blog posts will be awarded with a free Saturday excursion. But that’s not all! Authors of the best three blog posts will have the opportunity to present the story behind their post at the conference either by oral presentation or by a poster.

The competition is over, what now?

The #EFUF2016 blog competition is over, but this doesn’t mean our blog will go quiet! There is still so much to say about urban forests! That’s why you can still send us your thoughts on EFUF 2016 themes and it will be our greatest pleasure to share them.

You’ll hear more from us on May 10th when we announce the winner of the #EFUF2016 blog competition! Stay tuned!

Photo credit: NOGRAN s.r.o.

Urban Forests: Natural Air Conditioners

What are urban heat islands and how do urban trees perform air conditioning services? Find out more in this blog post by Ana Simčič, a forestry engineer from Slovenia.

What do you prefer in a summer afternoon – a walk in a crowded city center or a walk in a forest? I’m sure everyone gets relieved when after a hot walk a tree shadow appears in front of them, waiting to cool them down and let them breathe a bit fresher summer breeze. Dense canopies certainly provide a much needed relief in hot summer hours.

Every city that is surrounded by forests or comprises forested fragments can be grateful for the effects they bring, especially in the summer time. Forests mitigate and moderate heat by absorbing less heat than neighborhood concrete areas and buildings. Trees lower surface and air temperatures by providing shade and through evaporation of water from the soil and leaves.

The extra heating load that comes with replacing natural vegetation with buildings, streets and sidewalks, has been recognized many decades ago. Cities are often warmer than surrounding rural areas – a phenomenon known as the “urban heat island effect”. It is caused by the absorption and storage of the sun’s thermal energy in urban infrastructure (steel, concrete or asphalt). A heat island forms over an urban area and is like a large bubble with higher temperatures than the rural surroundings. The phenomenon is common in large metropolitan cities, but it’s also noticeable in smaller cities like Ljubljana. The temperature differences between forested areas and urban environments are most pronounced during heat waves. When temperatures in urban concrete areas are near dangerous to impair human health, neighborhood green areas provide conditions that are more human friendly.

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Urban heat island effect, caused by solar energy.

Recreation in summertime is much more healthier in forested areas, where air is less polluted. A dense canopy of healthy trees can reduce the effects of air pollution associated with increasing urban temperatures. Air pollution is a serious public health threat linked to asthma, migraines, respiratory and heart diseases and most of them get especially pronounced during summer heat waves.

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A picnic in the shadow of the trees.

Trees also save energy by shading our homes and paved surfaces. Mature trees can significantly reduce summer air conditioning use by shading the sides of our homes that are exposed to overheating. In autumn, deciduous trees lose their leaves and allow us to solar heat our homes and reduce winter energy use.

Heat tires everyone – people, animals and also plants – that’s why a walk in the forest is always a good decision. In the forest, the air is more humid, temperatures are lower and the canopies protect us from harmful UV rays and sunburns. If we don’t forget a bottle of cool water, there is a pleasant walk in front of us despite the high temperatures outside of the woods.

This blog post is authored by Ana Simčič and is part of the #EFUF2016 blog competition.

Featured photos by WeatherQuestions and FHWA.

Exceptional Trees: Ambassadors of Nature Conservation

Exceptionality and extraordinariness have always excited us, such as exceptional trees that have survived several human generations. With their special characteristics these individual trees or tree groups stand out from the average, instill respect and arouse admiration. Find out more how protection of exceptional urban trees can contribute to the promotion of urban forests and raise nature conservation awareness in this blog by Janez Kermavnar.

The expression ‘exceptional (heritage) tree’ refers to trees with outstanding traits. There are different categories of exceptional trees, depending on the criteria used. Trees of exceptional dimensions (usually thickness and height) are the easiest to spot. Some of trees can be designated as worthy of preservation due to their age, aesthetic quality, historical and cultural significance, particular treetop shape or unusual trunk form. Other trees stand out due to their exceptional rarity or non-nativity, while some trees are special because of their peculiar position. Many exceptional trees have interesting stories or even secrets. The more a tree’s physical appearance is eye-catching and magnificent, the more spiritual symbolism is attributed to it. That’s why so many exceptional trees are connected to myths and legends.

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A wonderful gingko tree, creating a priceless scenery for citizens.

Exceptional trees can be found in densely forested landscapes and in urbanized areas. Because exceptional trees growing deep inside forests are less noticeable than similar trees in urban spaces (parks, streets), exceptional trees growing in cities could play a more prominent role.

I did a quick research on exceptional trees in the City of Ljubljana. According to the register of the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation and the inventory of tree heritage, there are approximately 110 trees recognized as valuable natural features in the City of Ljubljana. Most of them are of exceptional dimensions (beech trees, oaks, non-native species …), officially protected by the municipal decrees from the early 1990`s. Protected trees are divided into those of national or local importance and are located on public or private properties.

The country of Slovenia is intersected by important natural areas. It owns a few truly notable and well-known trees that had been given special attention and importance. One of them is the highest spruce tree in Europe – the Sgerm spruce on the Pohorje Mountains with 62,3 m! Exceptional trees are spatially well-defined spots. Unlike Natura 2000 sites, where some habitat areas are protected, so it seems, just to create disagreement (due to restrictions) between public and private interests. In this I see the biggest problem regarding nature conservation.

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Visiting a remarkable chestnut tree in an urban park.

Taking care of important parts of nature is becoming increasingly popular. Exceptional trees are natural monuments and a living proof how extraordinary nature really is. By highlightning their presence throughout educational trails we can raise public awareness about the importance of nature conservation. Exceptional trees are not only ambassadors of nature conservation but, ultimately, also the interface between conservation and urban forestry.

This blog post is authored by Janez Kermavnar and is a part of the #EFUF2016 blog competition.

Featured photos by The Bode and Tim Sheerman-Chase.

Tracking Growth Conditions: Trees, Time and a Bullet

Good management of a city’s green infrastructure requires to be based on scientifically sound and statistically reliable information. As urban trees are coping with fast-changing and quite stressful conditions, it’s crucial to monitor these – find out how it’s done in the city of Ljubljana in this blog by Dr. Simon Poljanšek, Dr. Lena Marion and Dr. Saša Zavadlav.
Tree growth in urban areas is influenced by climate, nutrient and water availability, ecological conditions, air pollution and many other factors. Because different tree species have different abilities to adapt to fast changes in urban environment, we initiated a study on how trees, growing in the city of Ljubljana, cope with fast-changing environmental conditions.

Different tree species, growing in different micro-locations were sampled and their tree-ring widths and stable carbon isotope composition in leaf material and tree-rings analysed at the Dendrochronology Laboratory and Laboratory for Stable Isotopes of the Slovenian Forestry Institute. Stem disks of different trees, cut down for safety reasons, were collected by arboristic company Tisa. Also, electronic band dendrometers were used, allowing us to measure daily change with 0.01mm accuracy in girth of the selected trees.

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Dendrochronological work

The first step was to build tree-ring width chronology for individual tree species and to compare these chronologies with existing ones of other or same species from surrounding non-urban regions. After each tree-ring is labelled with the year of growth, they were manually cut and further chemically treated to extract pure a-cellulose. This is a very important step when looking at stable carbon isotope composition of tree rings, because only from purified wood component a reliable climate signal can be extracted. After all, trees are exposed to various factors that might enhance or depress their growth, which eventually diminishes climate signal. The reasons can be many – insect attack followed by a viral disease, drought, air pollution, mechanical damage and so on.

Stable carbon isotopes

We also wanted to find out how space limitation, related to insufficient water accumulation near pavement and road surfaces, influences tree physiology. We examined bulk leaf and water soluble organic matter of maple, birch and hornbeam, growing in a non-limited location (lawn strips), 2-side limited location (between pavement and tarmac road) or 4-side limited location (on parking lots or narrow streets). The ratio between heavy and light carbon (13C/12C) is a very good tracer of drought stress. When trees experience it, they close stomata to prevent water loss, but at the same time the production of photosynthates is reduced. This results in narrower tree-rings and higher 13C/12C ratio.

Surprisingly, preliminary results on stable carbon isotope data and other eco-physiological measurements showed that trees, growing in most space-limited areas, are better coping with stress situations compared to trees growing in a non-limited space location. We assume this is related to the rate of photosynthesis of individual trees, however, further analysis will need to be taken.

The WWII, a bullet and a tree

During sample preparation of horse chestnut tree for tree-ring analysis, blade of the table saw cut straight through a bullet, hidden inside the sample. Comparing developed tree-ring chronology and tree-ring counting, we dated the shot back to spring/summer 1944. This is the time of German occupation of Ljubljana, and also the time when numerous arrests occurred at different places in Ljubljana, in one of which, this particular bullet, could be have been shot.

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A bullet inside a tree.

This blog post is authored by dendroclimatologist Dr. Simon Poljanšek, arborist Dr. Lena Marion and isotope biogeochemist Dr. Saša Zavadlav and is part of the #EFUF2016 blog competition.

Acknowledgements: We wish to thank STReESS COST Action: FP1106, and Ministry of Education, Science and Sport for funding the research, Ljubljana City municipality for cooperation in time of trees sampling, Ministry of Foreign Affairs for cooperation in electronic dendrometers measurements, Tisa d.o.o., arboristic company for helping collecting stem disks and National Forensic Laboratory Slovenia for inspecting and sharing the information on the bullet. Saša also acknowledges the funding of the EUFORINNO project (RegPot. No. 315982).

Nature Takes Over: Unexpected Green Change in Ploiesti, Romania

Accidental and surprising as it may be, the city of Ploiesti developed a rich green infrastructure. Find out what happened in this blog by Pieter Wieringa, a forest engineer from Romania.

The city of Ploiesti is the center of oil exploitation and oil refining in Romania, completely surrounded by oil and petro-chemical industries. At the beginning of the 20th century, when Romania was the third largest oil producer in the world, the city counted more than 10 oil refineries. Today only four of them are operational. Vast industries lay abandoned (brownfields), urban air quality is poor and greeneries are few.

Officially, Ploiesti only provides each and every inhabitant with 12,4 m2 of public functional green space, while the Romanian average of urban green space in cities with more than 100.000 inhabitants is 18 m2 per capita[1]. Both are well below the minimum of 26 m2 per capita required by the European Union.

However, it is not as simple as that and the numbers can be deceiving. Working as a forest engineer on the new master plan for this heavily industrialized city, I realized that Ploiesti is actually very green indeed! The oil refineries and supporting chemical companies that have gone bust in the early 90s have turned green. In the 25 years of abandonment, plants and trees have become quite successful in reclaiming the lands. Nature has created urban wilderness woodlands or “nature of the fourth kind” as Ingo Kowarik and Stefan Körner named them so fittingly[2]. The well-developed railway infrastructure was a facilitator in bringing plants and trees to areas of economic decline. The railways functioned as a sort of a transportation highway for exchange of genetic materials between the rural and urban areas.

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Wild urban woodland in southern Ploiesti.

The new wild urban woodlands follow the railways that encircle the city and in many cases connect to the adjoining brownfields. As a consequence, a near perfect unbroken greenbelt of 10 to 600 meters wide has emerged. The greenbelt is highly variable along its route. Its vegetation is in different stages of development and runs through mostly brownfields in the South, towards watershed and residential areas in the north. Furthermore, a South to North-West green corridor, lining the main boulevard, connects the city center with the greenbelt (Figure 2). One of the most important features of green infrastructure is connectivity. Connectivity is what enhances genetic exchange and allows fresh air to reach the interior of cities where urban heat islands are most prevalent.

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Map of accidental green infrastructure in Ploiesti.

Although this network of a greenbelt, brownfields, green rail corridors and existing parks is not managed, studied or even identified, it does not mean it isn’t there. It contributes significantly to the greening and the quality of life in the city by providing advantages such as: pleasant micro-climate, urban biodiversity, fresh (cool) air, shade, pollution uptake, carbon sequestration, etc.

Even though most of the green wilderness woodlands are not open to the public, a lot of them are surprisingly accessible. Recently, people have started to notice the sheer scale of (green) change and are beginning to see opportunities for its alternative use – recreation, adventure, parkour and skateboarding. It provides a space for wilderness experience and a welcomed contrast to the harsh and chaotic concrete urban environment. Additionally, many of these areas are used for pastoral activities and urban agriculture, further adding to urban resilience.

 

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Locals skateboarding at Ploiesti Triaj. Photo: Fritz Schiel

Urban forestry in Romania is in its infancy. There are no present discussions taking a more holistic view at urban green spaces in Ploiesti. Based on field research and existing information I was able to create the above map and gather data.

The greenbelt that surrounds the city occupies an area of approximately 7,2 km2. Together with other green spaces and parks the total surface of green infrastructure amounts to 13.26 km2. In other words, 22,7 % of the city is covered by greeneries. In total, the residents of Ploiesti will now find there is 63,1 m2 per capita of green space, out of which 12,4 m2 per capita of public functional green space. According to a previous study on urban green space coverage in Europe, these numbers rank Ploiesti higher than the Romanian average and the neighboring eastern European countries.[3]

Accidental as it may be, could there be a way to integrate and protect these valuable resources in the future? How to raise awareness for something that is associated with unemployment, economic decline and mismanagement? Perhaps through temporary use of small physical impact, such as creating wilderness parks, community food forests or allotment gardens (urban agriculture)? What do you think the alternatives for Ploiesti’s green urban future can be?

[1] Green space index Romania:  Chiriac D., C. Huma, M. Stanciu, 2009, Urban Green Spaces – A Problem of Contemporary Urbanization, Research Institute on the Quality of Life (in Romanian).

[2]Wild Urban Woodlands: New Perspectives for Urban Forestry, 2005, Ingo Kowarik and Stefan Körner, (Eds.) 1-32.

[3] The scaling of green space coverage in European cities, 2009, Richard A. Fuller, and Kevin J. Gaston.

This blog post is authored by Pieter Wieringa, forest engineer and MKBT: Make Better (urbanism and local development company) and is a part of the #EFUF2016 blog competition.