Urban Children Need (Urban) Forests

This time we present a very special blog – a child’s perspective on urban forests! Find out what 5-year old Jan has to say about urban forests in this blog written down by Natalija Györek, initiator of the Slovenian Network of Forest Kindergartens and Schools.

I hope this contribution will not surprise you. It is not a scientific blog about urban forests, but it is true to life. It is about (urban) children – their journey into the world, their development, learning, and their view of the world around them. An urban forest should be a place they experience positively, because it is generous, encouraging, infinitely surprising and pleasing to the senses. It should be a world that invokes the memory of forests and nature, all the way from childhood to adulthood.

My name is Jan. I’m five years old. I live with my mum, dad and my younger brother in a big city called Ljubljana. Every day my mum and dad take me to a nearby kindergarten, where I play with my friends, go for many walks and have a good time. In kindergarten I like playing outside the most. I’m also very happy when teachers Marjeta and Tanja take us for a walk. I like climbing over fences, up the slide and climbing the trees, which are my favourite. But my teachers say we mustn’t climb the trees growing in playgrounds and in the city, because we could break the branches and hurt them. We’re also not allowed to tear leaves off trees, even though I sometimes want to put one in my pocket and show it to my mum. That’s probably why they’re closed in iron boxes, from which I can’t even pick the pebbles I love so much. Marjeta and Tanja also explained to us that these trees decorate our city and clean our air. But I don’t quite understand how trees can clean our air.

One day Marjeta and Tanja told us we were going for a walk to a nearby forest. That’s where the “real trees” grow, unlike the ones that are put in boxes. We took a bus to Rožnik Hill on the other side of the city. There’s a big urban forest there and children can get lost in it, but Marjeta and Tanja let us play there. Oh my, the things we did! We could climb over slippery stumps – I fell a few times, but I didn’t cry. With my friends, Tomaž and Peter, we drilled holes into the ground and hid behind bushes. You can hide so well in the forest that no one can find you. We found three snails and two spiders, which is as many as the fingers on one hand, and we just couldn’t stop looking at them. I might have been a little afraid of them, but I won’t tell that to anyone but my mum. We also built the best house out of forest sticks. Why do we find so many sticks in the forest, but there aren’t any in the city? Maybe adults pick them up at night.

I was happy to finally see real trees – the kind you can climb and no one gets angry. Marjeta and Tanja too came back from the forest in a good mood. That day we ate all the macaroni and quickly fell asleep.

When we came to the kindergarten the next day Marjeta and Tanja explained to us that from then on we would be visiting the forest on Rožnik Hill once a week and that we would become a forest kindergarten and join other kindergartens in the Network of Forest Kindergartens and Schools of Slovenia. I like that a lot. I like going to the forest because there we can get ourselves dirty and no one gets angry. I can’t wait for next week when we go to the forest again!

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This blog was written down by Natalija Györek, founder of the Institute for Forest Pedagogics, on behalf of Jan and all the children.

 

 

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Green Divides in Cities Are Also Health Divides

What is the cost of losing everyday contact with natural spaces in favour of more urban development? Find out more in this blog by the #EFUF2016 invited blogger, Tara Zupančič, MPH.

I was twelve years old when I first visited Slovenia. I spent my summer on the mountain where my father grew up. Among 300 acres of trees, I would love to watch the mist lift from the valley floor into the ether. My soul felt alive there, and like many people, I have grown to depend on nature to hoist my spirit, provide refuge from the heat, and restore my sense of home on this planet. So when I tell people that I study the relationship between nature and health, I’m often met with an incredulous look. Isn’t it well established that nature provides the very foundation of human health? My head bobs yes, as I explain myself.

The push for research on the health benefits of nature is related to our increasingly urban existence. Competing needs for roads, houses, and industry can easily overtake greener pastures. Nature is typically viewed as something beyond urban borders and not part of our daily city life. As cities expand their borders to house the majority of the world’s population, we need to ask, what is the cost of losing everyday contact with natural spaces in favour of more urban development? In the face of competing land use needs, is a stand of trees that important?

Despite advances in health care, our lifelong health is largely determined by our social and economic position and the settings where we live, work, and play. A strong and growing body of evidence shows that everyday contact with urban nature is critical to our well-being and is significantly associated with healthier births, as well as reduced mortality, obesity, chronic disease, depression and anxiety. Access to nature is especially important for children and is significantly associated with increased play, physical activity, and cognitive and motor development.

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Unfortunately, the ability to enjoy the benefits of nature often falls along social and economic divides, deepening health inequalities in cities. This means that poor health, disproportionately borne by those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, is compounded by greater environmental burdens where they live. For example, a European systematic review showed that socially disadvantaged children commonly suffer from multiple and cumulative health burdens related to poor quality housing, greater exposure to traffic and industrial pollution, and a lack of healthy, natural spaces where they live. These children are more susceptible to harm from adverse environmental conditions because they often lack protective factors such as adequate nutrition, opportunity for play and essential health care.

Tackling health inequalities is a major global health priority, and ensuring equitable access to nature must be part of that strategy. While exposure to nature can benefit everyone, there is consistent evidence that the benefits are strongest among socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.

The association between green space and reduced mortality has been found to be strongest in the most socioeconomically deprived urban areas. Increased green space exposure also appears to decrease the effect of income deprivation on all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Multiple studies on green space exposure and birth have found that the strongest positive associations are found among the most socially disadvantaged. It is not clear why these stronger associations exist but emerging evidence suggests that nature may provide a buffer from difficult life circumstances, and be protective against stress as a setting for emotional, physical, and social support.

The benefits of everyday contact with nature are vast and there is a need to ensure that this nurturing from nature is not determined by a person’s wealth, income, or ability to leave the city. Time in nature is an essential right of childhood and sets a critical foundation for lifelong health. As an increasingly urban planet, we need to configure our cities to maximize nature in every nook and cranny and guarantee everyone is free to benefit from it. Instead of planning the apportioning of trees amid sprawling cites, there is an opportunity to plan vibrant cities amid great forest canopies. Our health depends on it.

Studies referenced:

Bolte, G., Tamburlini, G., & Kohlhuber, M. (2010). Environmental inequalities among children in Europe—evaluation of scientific evidence and policy implications. The European Journal of Public Health, 20(1), 14-20.

Brown, S. C., Lombard, J., Wang, K., Byrne, M. M., Toro, M., Plater-Zyberk, E., … & Pantin, H. M. (2016). Neighborhood Greenness and Chronic Health Conditions in Medicare Beneficiaries. American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

James, P., Banay, R. F., Hart, J. E., & Laden, F. (2015). A review of the health benefits of greenness. Current epidemiology reports, 2(2), 131-142.

About the author: Tara Zupančič, MPH is the Founder and Director of Habitus Research in Canada.

EFUF 2016 Report: First Asia-Pacific Urban Forestry Meeting

In April 2016 the First Asia-Pacific Urban Forestry Meeting took place! Missed it? No reason to worry – find out all about it in this new blog by Dr. Andrej Verlič, head of the EFUF 2016 organizing committee.

The First Asia-Pacific Urban Forestry Meeting took place between April 6 and 8, 2016 in Zhuhai, China. It was hosted by FAO, the Urban Forestry Research Centre of the State Forestry Administration of the People’s Republic of China, and the City of Zhuhai. It was a major event, attended by about 200 delegates from 17 Asian countries, Europe and North America, who represented around 60 government institutions, NGOs, universities, international organizations and professional associations.

The meeting explored the role of urban forestry in helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Representatives from various region countries shared their experiences, case studies and information on the status of urban forestry in their homelands.

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Delegates of the First Asia-Pacific Urban Forestry Meeting 2016 (FAO Photo Archive)

Divided into five working groups, delegates on the last day examined the role of urban forestry in health and wellbeing, cultural heritage, green economy, urban planning and provision of ecosystems services. The meeting ended with a round table, where the main challenges for development and inclusion of urban forestry in the region were discussed: knowledge sharing, capacity building, education & research, awareness raising, advocacy and funding sources.

On the last day of the meeting, the Zhuhai declaration was unanimously adopted. The declaration is submitting eight recommendations for consideration and awareness raising, by which delegates are conveying their willingness to work together with policy- and decision makers, practitioners and other stakeholders.

The declaration is sending a message to national and local governments, international organizations, funding agencies, universities and research institutions, NGOs, civil society, urban forestry specialists and practitioners, urban planners, private sector and local communities, expressing delegates’ concerns, calling for action, proposing solutions and reaffirming delegates’ belief that forests and trees in and around cities are the key element to make cities in the Asia-Pacific region greener, healthier, happier and more resilient to climate change. Hopefully, the message of the First Asia-Pacific Urban Forestry Meeting will get across.

Author: Dr. Andrej Verlič, Slovenian Forestry Institute

Ten Years After: Welcome Back to the Urban Forests of Celje

It has been eleven years, actually. In 2005 the first EFUF in Slovenia took place in Celje, the city with long tradition of urban forests and forestry. Find out more why this year EFUF will return to Celje in this blog by Robert Hostnik, urban forest manager at the Slovenia Forest Service.

Looking back – we had a great time then. As organizers we were impressed by the response of more than 100 experts from 22 countries. They still like to share nice memories with us and rarely forget to mention the anecdote about wine and vinegar. Although not our fault, it was quite embarrassing. If you come this year, you will surely hear about “the vinegar error”. Rather than go into details, I will use it as a metaphor for a short introduction into the development of the urban forests of Celje.

From the noble wine to the sour vinegar

The social functions of the forests near the city of Celje were to a large extent recognized more than a century ago. In 1885 the municipality bought first areas of private forests on the slope above the city and equipped them with new footpaths, benches and pavilions. The forests were popular for recreation and were suitably maintained for the next eight decades.

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One of the entry points to the urban forest of Celje at Meško spring in 1905

The rapid industrialization in 1950s caused environmental problems and forest degradation. It gradually drove forest visitors away. In 1970s, when citizens could afford cars and became more mobile, they started to prefer other natural places outside the city. Regular management of the urban forests was almost abandoned.

New vineyards for the new wine

Fresh impulse for the development of the forgotten potentials of the urban forests of Celje popped up in the 1990s from local forestry experts. The results of their studies, along with the emerging conflicts between the private and public interests emphasized the need for a long-term oriented multiple use of forest management.

The City Council accepted the initiative of the Forest Service and in 1996 confirmed the proposed strategy plan for the development of the urban forests of Celje. Strategy 1996, as it was called, emphasized (1) the protection of urban forests by law, (2) improvement of the ownership structure with the redemption of private forests, (3) adapted forest management, (4) development of recreational and educational infrastructure, (5) public relations and (6) assurance of the stable financial resources.

But not just any wine

In the next decade the strategy was quite successfully implemented. The number of urban forest visitors tripled. The urban forests of Celje became a kind of a role model for other Slovenian cities. Soon the need for upgrading the existing approaches emerged. The Strategy 2006 was more focused on (1) strengthening of governance and users’ participation, (2) branding and popularization, (3) coordination of public and private interests (4) education based on forest pedagogy principles and (5) on further development of infrastructure and equipment for recreation, education and experiencing. The following years brought stronger recognition and even wider popularity of the urban forests.

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The entry point at Meško spring nowadays. Nature education based on the principles of forest pedagogy is one of the key activities of the current urban forest management in Celje.

Dear colleagues, we would be glad to present you with the results – successes and failures – of our urban forest management and projects in the last decade on the EFUF 2016 field excursion. Your feedback will be precious as we are preparing new Strategy 2016 – 2025. We are looking forward to welcome you and I promise that this time we’ll drink only an excellent wine.

About the author: Robert Hostnik works as a forest manager at the Slovenia Forest Sevice. His main fields of interest and expertise are related to the urban forestry, ecosystem services and nature education. For the last 25 years he has been actively involved in the urban forestry development in Slovenia.

Photo courtesy of Osrednja knjižnjica Celje (Rzg 3669) and Slovenia Forest Service.

Does Money Grow on Trees After All?

How can a city benefit from trees? As calculated by Dan Burden, growing trees might be the best long-term investment for a city – a single street tree returns over 80,000 € of direct benefits in its lifetime. Here’s a quick look at some of the most prominent positions for hiring trees that research has thrown light upon so far.

  1. Trees increase property values

This is not surprising as trees create a tapestry of colour, fragrance and interesting form that changes throughout the year, screen unattractive views and soften the harsh contours of buildings. Trees help residential and commercial properties to rent more quickly and to have a higher occupancy rate. They can add up to 15 percent to residential property value and where the entire street is tree-lined, homes may be worth 25% more.

  1. Trees increase business and commercial activity

An abundant tree canopy can attract new residents, tourists and businesses into a neighbourhood. Studies show that people like to spend more time and money in districts with more trees. In addition, having offices with a view of nature and access to green areas during breaks translates into healthier, more productive and satisfied employees.

  1. Trees reduce energy expenditure

Strategically placed trees around a building can reduce summer cooling costs by as much as 30%, while in winter heating costs can be reduced by a similar percentage with the use of trees as windbreaks. A tree is a natural air conditioner and can produce the cooling effect of ten room-size, residential air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. Neighborhoods well-shaded with street trees can be up to 6-10 degrees cooler.

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Urban trees provide many benefits for a city and its residents
  1. Trees reduce water management costs

Trees reduce stormwater management costs and produce better water quality. They act as natural water filters and prevent harmful land pollutants contained in the soil from getting into our waterways. They significantly slow the movement of stormwater, which lowers total runoff volume, soil erosion and flooding.

  1. Trees reduce costs for meeting regulatory pollution requirements

Trees contribute to meeting a city’s regulatory clean air requirements by capturing more than 60% of the particulate air pollution. They remove dust, particulates, absorb ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants. Estimates show that over a 50-year lifetime, a tree provides more than 50,000 € worth of air pollution control. Trees also act as sound buffers and reduce noise pollution by absorbing and blocking more than 40% of urban noise.

  1. Trees reduce health care costs

Trees catch air pollutants that damage human lungs which enhances a community’s respiratory health and ameliorates respiratory problems, such as asthma. They provide protection against ozone-associated health issues. Studies show that hospital patients with a view of trees out their windows recover much faster and with fewer complications. Time spent in nature not only promotes greater physical activity, but also reduces stress, eye strain and lowers blood pressure.

  1. Trees increase security and strength of a community

Trees lower anxious and violent behaviour – the greener the neighbourhood, the lower the crime rate. In homes surronded by trees there is less domestic violence and child abuse than in barren conditions. Trees also create a physical barrier between the street and the sidewalk, keeping pedestrians, children and pets out of harm’s way. Urban nature creates popular meeting places, inviting citizens to spend time together relaxing, walking, jogging or playing. These activities encourage interaction, bring neighbours together and strengthen urban communities.

As shown, urban trees provide a wide array of solutions to a city’s welfare and resilience. A city with an abundance of trees is a rich, sociably stable, safe and healthy city.

Author: Anita Mašek, Slovenian Forestry Institute

Featured photo by star5112.

Urban Forests and Water

This year’s topic of the International Day of Forests on March 21st is “Forests and Water”. It’s a very important topic, especially in urbanizing cities, where reducing stormwater runoff by urban forests and trees has become important part of stormwater management. Read about this in a blog written by Dr. Urša Vilhar, research fellow at the Forest Ecology Department of the Slovenian Forestry Institute.

The ability to mitigate stormwater runoff in many urbanized watersheds around the globe has decreased. Stormwater runoff associated with an increased amount of impervious surfaces in the cities is the main cause of flooding, poor water quality, and deteriorating stream health.

How can urban trees reduce stormwater?

Urban forests and trees have a great potential for reducing stormwater runoff by enhancing soil infiltration and evapotranspiration, as well as regulating the amount of throughfall reaching the ground via rainfall interception by tree crowns. Trees can also absorb water in the soil by root uptake. Together, the roots and leaf litter stabilize soil and reduce erosion. Since the amount of impervious surfaces, e.g. parking lots, roof tops, driveways, and roads is increasing in many urban communities, rainwater cannot infiltrate and runs off as stormwater.

In urbanizing cities, management of urban forests and trees has become important part of stormwater management. Urban forests, trees, vegetation and pervious soils beneficially affect urban watershed hydrology by their ability to intercept, evaporate, transpire, infiltrate, and store rainfall.

Vilhar_vodnilrogWater cycle in urban forest and in the city. Canopy interception loss by urban forests or individual city trees accounts for 4 to 50 % of annual or seasonal rainfall. Trees and their associated tree pits may reduce surface runoff from asphalt by as much as 62 %.

How can urban trees improve water quality?

Research has found that water quality is strongly related to runoff. Stormwater flows into the community’s stormwater system or flows directly into the urban streams, lakes or wetlands. Before reaching a stormwater system or water way, stormwater picks up and transports loads of nutrients, heavy metals, organic pollutants, and other harmful substances from roadways, sidewalks, yards, and homes.

Tree roots, leaf litter, and vegetation can remove pollutants, sediment, and nutrients from the stormwater, lessening the amount of harmful substances reaching our ground or surface waters. Among plant types, trees have an exceptional ability to capture and filter multiple air pollutants, including ground-level ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. Finally, tree canopy over streams and wetlands can reduce water temperatures, thereby increasing dissolved oxygen and reducing the formation of nuisance algae.

Using natural vegetation as a low impact development and best management practice can be an effective technique to control stormwater runoff on site, mitigating the impacts of urbanization on surface runoff and pollutants delivery at a local scale.

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Relative contribution of different land cover classes in the City of Ljubljana to ecosystem services, related to regulation of water flow and water purification. The highest capacity to provide water flow regulation was indicated for wetlands and mixed forests. The highest capacity to provide water purification services was indicated for mixed and coniferous forests. The lowest capacity for both ecosystem services was indicated for urbanized areas. (Results of the Life+ project EMoNFUr).

Urban forests and trees are valuable parts of our urban ecosystem for the numerous benefits they provide to communities. Proper management of the urban forest reduces stormwater runoff and improve water quality. The following practices can help achieve this:

  • Maximize the amount of growing space and understory vegetation around a tree.
  • Preserve established trees and minimize soil compaction, displacement, and erosion around a tree.
  • Minimize clearing of trees and vegetation to preserve their benefits and minimize soil compaction.
  • Do not over fertilize or over irrigate trees, lawns or gardens.
  • Route excess stormwater to bioretention areas made of a vegetated buffer and a soil bed to filter pollutants, store water, and prevent erosion.
  • Include tree and vegetative strips in parking lots to collect, store, and treat the runoff.
  • Maintain and increase the amount and width of urban forest buffers around urban streams, lakes, and wetlands.

Author: Dr. Urša Vilhar, Forest Ecology Department of the Slovenian Forestry Institute

Monitoring of Urban Forests – LIFE+ EMoNFUr

The benefits of urban forests for citizens and the most important results of the LIFE+ EMoNFUr project are introduced by our invited blogger Dr. Urša Vilhar, research fellow at the Forest Ecology Department of the Slovenian Forestry Institute.

Forest, trees, parks and other green areas in urban landscapes are the irreplaceable part of the nature and our environment and especially important for citizens. Urban forests are important because they provide direct contact with nature to citizens, peace, relaxation, aesthetics and in Slovenia they are frequently visited for recreation. At the same time urban forests provide a great deal of ecosystem services that play an important role at insuring the health and improving the citizens’ quality of life. Namely, urban forests filter air, protect water quality, reduce soil erosion etc. In addition, trees and soils store carbon and reduce concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But the climate changes reduce the ability of urban forests to provide these benefits for the environment and people.

The most important results of LIFE+ EMoNFUr

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In the LIFE+ EMoNFUr project a monitoring network was established to assess lowland forests in Milan (Italy) and Ljubljana (Slovenia). Monitoring of urban forests was set up at five study areas in Milan and two in Slovenia during a 3-year period.

A network of permanent plots for monitoring urban forests was established in Milan and Ljubljana. The inventory of urban and peri-urban forests was preformed in Milan. Researchers from the Slovenian Forestry Institute assessed diversity of selected plant and animal species, monitored insects and diseases of forest trees and their health status in Ljubljana’s urban forests. They have also analyzed soil pollution, monitored visits to the urban forest, assessed air pollution, analyzed tree growth, assessed forest inventory, estimated carbon stocks in trees and forest soils, monitored water quality and quantity from forested watershed, etc.

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A part of the LIFE+ EMoNFUr project monitoring network in the Landscape park Tivoli, Rožnik and Šišenski hrib for monitoring urban forests. The Forest inventory revealed that 1 hectare of urban forest on average sequestrated 138 tonnes of carbon in above ground, below ground and dead wood biomass.

The results have shown that:

  • Tree health is especially important in urban areas – diseased or injured trees can pose threat to humans and property.
  • Urban forests sustain the quality of drinking water sources and have a large capacity for retaining excess stormwater and melting snow.
  • Forest soils in Ljubljana have proved to be well preserved and represent one of the cleanest environments in Ljubljana.
  • In urban forests, the air temperatures during the heat wave are appreciably lower than in the urban center.
  • the diversity of plant and animal species is an important indicator of biodiversity in the urban forest
  • At the same time urban forests serve as natural filter for pollutants, while in average 1 hectare of urban forest binds 138 tons of carbon.

The most important EMoNFUr project results are the online guidelines and the Protocol for monitoring urban forests, which can be used by any city in Europe and around the world. The documents include a wide range of recommendations and criteria for detailed descriptions of ecological, environmental and social values of urban forests.

Dr. Urša Vilhar, Slovenian Forestry Institute

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Acknowledgement: the  LIFE+ EMoNFUr project was financially supported by the European Commission’s LIFE – Financial Instrument for the Environment.

Urban Wildlife: Our Non-human Neighbors

Animals are a lot smarter that we think and will always find an opportunity for a free lunch. A process of animals adapting to urban life is called synurbization. The phenomenon that has emerged in the last few decades raises new challenges for wildlife managers.

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A view from my office: a roe deer resting in the landscape park Tivoli, Rožnik and Šišenski hrib.

Over the Hedge (2006) is one of my favorite computer-animated films. The main character of the story is RJ the raccoon. He shows the great piles of food that humans consume and waste to wild animals and asks them: “Why bother with foraging for food when we can just steel all the ‘yummy’ food from humans?” And then the trouble begins… 🙂

Cities all over the world are becoming home to a great variety of wildlife species, which became part of our everyday life. Most of the species became so common that we can’t imagine cities without them – think about the pigeons in the City of Venice. Feeding squirrels and birds in the city park Tivoli is one way that citizens of Ljubljana are maintaining contact with wildlife and interact with the natural environment.

Wildlife species need food, water, shelter and space to survive. They like the abundance of food in fields, orchards, gardens, parks and other urban ecological islands. So it is not surprising that wild animals are attracted to urban settings. And yes, disgusting as it may seem, human garbage is also a source of ‘free lunch’ that comes on a daily basis. While we enjoy the sight of bees feeding on flowers, we are not that thrilled to see a fox or a crow (or even a bear) going through our trash.

Cities provides water all year round, coming from various sources such as ponds, puddles, drainage ditches and fountains – oases where even in the hottest summers urban wildlife can find bathing and drinking water. In addition to food and water, the urban environment is an endless provider of cover where wildlife seeks protection, raise their young, nest or just rest. Most people don’t even notice all the opportunities where animals find their little hiding places. Well, at least until we don’t find out that we share our attic with a colony of bats or noisy dormice.

For humans, sharing urban environment with wildlife is acceptable until we don’t feel threatened or our possessions get endangered. When it comes to reducing human – wildlife conflicts, first a sound monitoring and management system has to be established. An urban wildlife manager has to understand the biology and ecology of a species and its interactions in an urban settings.

We manage wildlife with direct population reduction and by modification of animal habitat through habitat factors described previously. Somebody once said: “Wildlife management is, at its core, the management of people“and I couldn’t agree more. The concept of hunting animals is not highly acceptable among people who are living in cities. When we decide to kill or remove a problematic animal from an urban area, we also disturb a part of society that is worried about the pain and suffering of the animals. The key to managing wildlife populations in urban settings is habitat manipulation. Wildlife managers have to see the urban environment not just from anthropocentric aspect, but also from the ecological point of view.

When planning for urban greening and for urban forests, think about the wild animals living in the city!

Saša Vochl, Slovenian Forestry Institute, Department for Forest and Landscape Planning and Monitoring

Green Infrastructure: A Positive Development for Urban Forestry?

Is the term Green Infrastructure a positive development for urban foresters? Find out in this blog post by Clive Davies, research fellow at the Newcastle University and the director of MD2 Consulting Ltd, where he is an international advisor & enabler supporting clients in all aspects of green infrastructure planning, urban & peri-urban forestry.

Green Infrastructure has become a really popular planning term in the last 10 years and has come to dominate the discourse on urban green. I have been reflecting on this for some time and have concluded that it is a positive development for practitioners and researchers engaged in urban forestry. Why?

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Urban Green Infrastructure

The answer is that in urban areas where tree cover is low urban forestry has often struggled to get accepted as a term of importance. Yet some of the same urban areas where urban forest recognition is limited are now beginning to plan for green infrastructure. This creates an opportunity to promote trees and urban woodlands as functional green infrastructure (GI) and embed the concepts of urban forestry in GI plans and projects – surely this is an opportunity. Of course for this to happen urban areas need urban forest advocates to make a strong case. Could that be you?

I also see a developing role for the EFUF partnership; if EFUF can produce authoritative, persuasive and relevant information on urban forestry targeted at professionals working on green infrastructure planning then we have a powerful new tool to promote the role of urban trees and urban woodland. At the EFUF Brussels/Waterloo Forum in 2015, there was discussion about creating a digital platform called EFUF 2.0. This promotional role on urban forestry as a crucial part of green infrastructure could be one of the functions of the digital platform.

Recently attention has been focused on Nature Based Solutions and the role green infrastructure plays in this. If you haven’t read the report Towards an EU Research and Innovation policy agenda for Nature-Based Solutions & Re-Naturing Cities then I recommend it to you. Urban forestry can make a huge contribution to nature based solutions and this is recognised, take this abstract from the EU report as an example: Planting trees to reduce air pollution and improve health.

  • Objective/Theme: Air pollution is a serious problem with more people moving to towns and cities combined with increased traffic.
  • Solutions/measures: There are a range of measures including the important one of reducing the source of the pollution. It has become increasingly clear that appropriate tree planting can be effective in reducing levels of air pollution in urban areas.
  • Short description (rcommendation): Provide incentives to encourage the planning of lines of trees in areas where high densities of pollutants and people coincide.

Reports of this kind can support arguments for urban forestry investment. So even in the era of austerity gripping Europe, there are new arguments we can put forward to promote urban forestry.

Author: Clive Davies, Strategic Urban Forestry & Green Infrastructure Consultant

Featured photo by mpstudio123.

Is Urban Forestry a Risky Business?

Is urban forestry a risky business? Find out in this blog by the #EFUF2016 invited blogger, Prof. Dr. Cecil Konijnendijk van den Bosch, professor of urban forestry and editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Urban Forestry and Urban Greening.

Having been an urban forestry researcher for about two decades now, I have had the pleasure to attend many different conferences and seminars across the globe. Not all of them are as good and rewarding as the annual European Forum on Urban Forestry, obviously, but there is always something one learns and takes home.

During the last week I was at the 2nd Urban Tree Diversity congress in Melbourne, Australia. Over 300 participants discussed the many aspects of tree diversity, from selection and resistance to pests and diseases to the diversity in links between people and trees. At the conference we spoke, as always, of the many benefits of urban trees and urban woods. However, it struck me once again how we urban foresters sometimes tend to be almost ‘apologetic’ in terms of the risks associated with trees. In our research and practice we have often focused on minimising risks in terms of e.g. tree and branch failure. Many books and articles have been written about hazard trees, visual tree assessment, branch failure, storm damages, and so forth.

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Is urban forestry a risky business? Photo: Brian Yap

At a seminar at the University of Sydney after the Melbourne conference, my Australian colleague Ian McKenzie raised this issue of our biases view on risk related to urban trees. Ian is somewhat of a ‘rare bird’, by the way, as he is both an arborist and a local politician. When he spoke of our problematic relation with risk, and the way other professions look at urban forestry primarily as a ‘risky business’ (or rather: a risk-minimising business), I realised that we urgently need to turn things around, in the minds of politicians, the public and other professionals, but also within our own field.

It is risky for a city NOT to have trees. When walking the streets of Sydney as well as many other cities, some streets can be scorching hot – and these are typically those streets without trees. Thus one is exposed to the risks of succumbing to heat and higher vulnerability to skin cancer in tree-less environments. City governments have the statutory obligation to provide us with basic infrastructure, clean water, safe roads, etc. They are also responsible for enhancing public health. So why should it not be seen as a duty for them to provide us with canopy-covered walkways and cycle routes, where threats to our health because of radiation, pollution, stress etc. are minimised?

Time for a paradigm shift, perhaps? Something to discuss at the upcoming European Forum on Urban Forestry, in Europe’s Green Capital of Ljubljana. The overall theme of the Forum fits well, as we will discuss the contributions of urban forests to resilient cities. To me, resilient cities are also vibrant and healthy cities, offering safe and attractive places for people of all ages to live, work and play. Resilient cities are also cities where the small risks of trees or branches falling and hitting someone are far outweighed by the crucial benefits of trees. Urban forestry is not a risky business, it’s a pure necessity.

Author: Cecil Konijnendijk van den Bosch, PhD

Featured photo by Brian Yap.