#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!

14986964993_befda7ef1e_z

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.

Advertisements

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!

jan-edit 3 DSC04009

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

 

 

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.

as
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.

as2
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.

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.

thinkBig_edit

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.

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.

gingko
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.

chestnut
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.

DSC_5795

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.

image description
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.

pieter 1
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.

pieter 2
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.

 

pieter 3
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.

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.

rsz_2rsz_1dsc_0212_3
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

Aesthetics of Urban Forests: Overcoming the Objectification

The more we are developing into an urban society, the more alienated from nature we are becoming. Not only does departure from nature lead to departure from ourselves, it also changes the way we perceive nature in urban environments. How? Find out more in this blog by Luka Mesec, student of forestry from Slovenia.

Urbanization started after industrial revolution and is still increasing at a rapid rate. People are massively moving from the countryside to cities and drastically changing their lifestyles. If we let ourselves imagine a businessman from a big city, spending most of his days in his office, and an organic farmer from the countryside, who’s in close contact with nature throughout his working day, we can easily see how the process of urbanization is drawing us away from nature.

Human beings lived in the realm of nature for hundreds of thousands of years and human mind developed in the presence of nature. That itself is the reason why we try to stay linked to nature in our day to day reality, otherwise we would live in barren urban environment among buildings and other constructs. To keep the connection with nature alive, we grow urban forests.

CP

From the earliest stages of human history aesthetic relation of man to his reality and surroundings has been an important part of our society’s development. With urbanization, our perception of nature is becoming more and more ambivalent: on one side nature is the real and good that contrasts the society as the artificial and destructive, and on the other side nature is something wild and threatening which we have to domesticate to protect ourselves.

Furthermore, the more urbanized and alienated from nature we are becoming, the more we’re objectifying it. It seems that nature, especially urban nature, is being turned into an aesthetic object.

Urban trees should not be perceived as aesthetic or art objects. Art objects do not possess features such as metabolism, regeneration and evolutionary history. A tree is a living subject which together with other subjects creates a living, dynamic and complex whole – an urban forest. An urban forest is therefore a living system which includes living subjects. Most of us agree that urban nature is simply beautiful, but there’s so much more to its aesthetic value than meets the eye. There is just something so “primal” that awakens in us when we gaze into the forest.

This blog post is authored by Luka Mesec and is part of the #EFUF2016 blog competition.

Photo credit: Douglas Rodgers

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.

FOTO 1
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.

A 704936
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.