#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)

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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)

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“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)

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Photo credit: Paxon Woelber

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.

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

Is there a green solution to lower air and noise pollution on your daily commute to work? Find out in this blog by Dr. John Gallagher, a post-doctoral researcher (Civil and Environmental Engineer) at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and Bangor University.

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. I have realised that we are creatures of habit, and we consciously or perhaps unconsciously like routine. What are we missing out on due to routine?

Our city parks for example, a valuable resource that provides us with green zones and offers a place to escape from the fast pace of urban life. Yet, do we take advantage of them during our daily commute, where they are available on our route? They can provide a much greener alternative to a busy roadside footpath, but is that the only benefit? What about lower noise levels and better air quality? Perhaps this is not a priority for many of us?

Research proved a long time ago that the closer you are to the source of pollution, the greater the exposure. At least the existence of a barrier between the source (car) and receptor (us), can reduces the level we are exposed to on a daily basis. Anything from parked cars, hedgerows and trees can help protect us from the nearby source to some degree. Trees along the outer edge of the park creates a baffle to protect those inside from direct high levels of noise and air pollution. Use that to your advantage, take a walk in the park!

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Parallel routes – roadside and park paths.

From a noise pollution perspective, as part of a study that was undertaken in 2015 by myself and colleagues, we examined paired routes (one roadside path and one parallel park path) around Hyde Park in London. Hyde Park is a perfect example of a city park to enjoy the green space as part of a commute. Comparing the results between routes showed a reduction in decibel levels due to a combination of increased distance from the road, plus the presence and density of vegetation. Other research studies have shown similar benefits for air pollution.

Despite these results, approximately half the number of pedestrians walk along the roadside footpath as opposed to the parallel path in the park. The next question to answer is how to change behaviour? And who should take responsibility to help change this routine behaviour?

Next time you’re walking through the city, consider this “is this the best route for me to have a more tranquil and less polluted trip?” Taking a diverted route through your nearby park may not increase your journey time, and even if it does by one minute, avoiding the highest roadside levels of noise and air pollution from traffic might be worth it. Enjoy a healthier, greener route in your area and consider changing your routine by changing your route.

Author: Dr. John Gallagher, Bangor University, School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering