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.

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#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)

 

Back in Celje After 10 Years – EFUF 2016 Day Two Recap

After a decade EFUF returned to the city of Celje for a brief visit! Find out what we’ve been up to on the second conference day in our latest blog post.

Attendees of the EFUF 2016 were warmly welcomed in Celje, “the city of counts and princesses”, by the mayor Bojan Šrot. He has expressed his honour and pride in that, since first hosting EFUF in 2005, Celje has become a role model for urban forestry in Slovenia. He has been aware of the potential that developing the brand “Urban forest of Celje (Mestni gozd Celje)” can offer the city and its residents and has been strongly supportive of the efforts of Slovenia Forest Service towards establishing it. Damjan Oražem, director of Slovenia Forest Service, continued that in their unceasing endeavors they have gathered years of valuable experience that can now be passed on to other Slovenian cities.

Thursday, June 2, 2016: Conference Day 2
EFUF 2016 in Celje (Photos: Urban Ušeničnik)

The second day of EFUF 2016 was characterized by lectures and discussions on the potential and ability of urban forests and green infrastructure in making cities and their parts more attractive and visible. This common thread was established at the very beginning by keynote speakers Robert Hostnik and Alan Simson. They expressed that branding urban forests is a long process involving a lot of cooperation, a risk that should be taken, as the rewards are bountiful and worth every effort. Their lectures were followed by many constructive presentations, offering a lot of applicable solutions and practical tools (such as lighting and different assessment tools) for making cities and their forests more visible and visited, which can highlight the many services they provide and attract further investments.

It is worth remembering that “cities are like magnets – they can attract or repel”. Magnetic cities look and feel better, attract people and investments. And urban forestry has much to contribute to making our cities more ‘magnetic’, as it has the knowledge to make the urban environment a quality green environment. To achieve anything worthwhile communication and networking are essential – using any means possible to connect with authorities, stakeholders and people, and forming networks, partnerships and events to share knowledge, information and experience.

After the indoor part of the Forum’s second day we went to stretch our legs a bit and paid a visit to the Urban forest of Celje and its lovely tree house – the trip was full of surprises, delicacies, good mood and… vinegar free 🙂 We shall remember our visit to Celje as a very instructive (at times even challenging) experience and fun all the same – a real treat for all of our senses!

Authors: Anita Mašek, Špela Planinšek and Saša Vochl; Slovenian Forestry Institute

EFUF 2016: Day One Recap

The exciting first day of the European Forum on urban forestry 2016 is behind us! We have gathered today’s highlights for you in our new blog post.

More than 80 researchers and experts in urban forestry and green infrastructure from all over the world gathered today in Ljubljana at the venue of Ljubljana Castle to attend EFUF 2016, organized by Slovenian Forestry Institute, Slovenia Forest Service, the City of Ljubljana and the City of Celje.

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First day of EFUF 2016. Photos: Urban Ušeničnik

“How to build cities that support life?” was the opening question of the EFUF 2016. Today the spotlight was on building the hosting city of Ljubljana, the European Green Capital of 2016. The city’s representatives presented efforts and achievements in environmental protection that could keep the city of Ljubljana green, healthy and beautiful; now and in the future.

The introduction was followed by keynote speakers: Cecil Konijendijk van den Bosch, Clive Davies, Tara Zupancic, Simone Borelli and Natalie Gulsrud. They touched the subject of the past and future development of urban forestry. Once urban forests were mostly parts of a city with an aesthetic value for the city residents, but today their numerous ecosystem services are gaining more and more recognition. Higher levels of governance and management can play an active role in green infrastructure development, using different means to encourage city municipalities to build greener and more sustainable cities. If urban forestry was once only a Western concern it is not anymore; it has turned global and is growing strong in the developing countries. Prominent speakers also defined the term ‘resilience‘, the main theme of this year’s EFUF, and together with valuable contribution from GREEN SURGE and LIFEGENMON projects presented different aspects of resilience: from governance and management to public health and biodiversity.

As we are recognizing the many benefits of urban forests and green infrastructure, we realize they might be the solution to many of our ‘urban’ problems. In the words of one of the speakers –“The green pill is all around us” – and there has never been a better time to invest in urban forests than now.

EFUF 2016 continues tomorrow, moving to the second venue in the city of Celje. You will hear more from us soon, so stay tuned!

Author: Anita Mašek, Slovenian Forestry Institute

EFUF 2016 Live – Tune In Now!

The European Forum on Urban Forestry 2016 will be broadcasted over the internet to ensure that anyone can participate. Here’s how to tune in:

Social media:

IMPORTANT: Please don’t forget to use our official hashtag – #EFUF2016  – when creating tweets or facebook posts about the Forum.

E-mail:

Webcast:

Watch the webcast on this link (Embedded below – the webcast begins 1.6.2016 at 9:00 CET).

For more information on the programme and the conference, please visit the EFUF 2016 official website.

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 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.

Active Citizens in Urban Green Space

Across European cities, citizens nowadays play a prominent role in the management of public green spaces, but what does this mean for authorities? Find out more in this blog by Thomas Mattijssen, research fellow at the Wageningen University.

While urban green spaces were traditionally developed and managed by authorities in most of the 20th century, my research and that of many colleagues highlights a stronger involvement of citizens in recent times.

Many local authorities struggle with budget cuts and scarce resources for green space management. This is the reason that policy makers and public officials often tend to look somewhat hopefully at citizens and their activities regarding green space. Expectations are high in many countries, whether we talk about ‘localism’ in the UK, ‘participation society’ in the Netherlands, or look at the policy documents of the European Union. Citizens are expected to be active citizens that take responsibility for their personal living environment.

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Active citizens in urban green space

Many bottom-up initiatives considering urban green space show that citizens can indeed be active citizens – they have proven to be knowledgeable and capable of managing varying types of green space. As research experiences across Europe show, efforts by citizens can lead to positive outcomes and are sometimes celebrated as a success by authorities. However, my own research findings suggest that the majority of citizen green space initiatives are relatively small-scale compared to ‘traditional’ management. Our bias to focus on successes and good practices tends to overlook other examples where citizens are less successful.

In this time of budget cuts, we should reflect on expectations placed on citizens. Cutting budgets for green spaces and simply expecting citizens to take over will usually not work. Although citizens can certainly contribute to the management of public green spaces in urban settings, there is a danger of ‘instrumentalizing’ citizens – expecting them to achieve policy objectives of authorities. Citizens are not always interested in being involved in green space management, nor always equipped to implement it, and they might have different objectives than the authorities.

I believe that rather than instrumentalizing citizens, we should try to look more from their point of view. Instead of trying to enlist citizens in the management of green space, authorities and other parties involved in its management would do well to start with looking at existing grassroots initiatives.

Albeit small scale, some existing initiatives can realize important social and environmental effects with relatively little resources. Yet, current research shows that many local green initiatives struggle with collecting resources and often receive relatively little support from authorities. I believe that a little investment from authorities in supporting such groups can potentially realize important local effects with relatively little means.

With this blog post, I plead to see citizens’ green space initiatives as a local addition to management, rather than as a replacement. Authorities cannot just expect citizens to take over, however, they can probably benefit from the existing energy that citizens invest in the development and management of urban green space.

This blog post is authored by Thomas Mattijssen and is a part of the #EFUF2016 blog competition.

Featured photo by East Hudson.

Back to nature! Even if we live in the city

There is a dispute in biology and other sciences: nurture vs. nature. Which one is more important in our lives? Are we determined by our genes? Or is it our upbringing that forms us the most? 

# Roots

Myself, I grew up in the countryside, in a village of 50 people. Basically, us and the brown bears, we lived in the same neighborhood.

In these days, I live in the city of Ljubljana, in an apartment block of 50 people. And I get to ask myself the same questions as my parents did. How to raise kids in this environment?  

 # Observe

As the little ones are brought into this world, we hold them close. We take care of their needs, meanwhile we have to take care of our own needs. It helps to take a walk, to clear our heads, to bring some fresh air into our thoughts and body.

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Forest Kindergarten in Ljubljana?   © Urša Plešnar

# Explore

When they leave our arms, they are ready to explore. They want to do everything by themselves. To touch, to smell, to feel. To explore on their own and at the same time, they want to know we are close.

For a small child, there is no schedule. Only this moment in time. For them, it is only here and now.

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Urban Forest Rožnik, Ljubljana.    © Urša Plešnar

# Create

In a few years, they enter into the pearls and perils of formal education – school. Life there is structured, often competitive (knowledge) and under peer presure (looks, clothes). But let’s not forget: under all this demands, there is a kid – that just wants to BE.

A kid that just wants to be appreciated for being him or her. To feel safe, to be loved and to learn. And kids do love to learn!

Sometimes we hear that kids nowadays don’t know how to make a fire, how to cook their own meal and how to make it through a week without their iPhone.

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A week without iPhone? Yes, we can!  © Manca Dostal

But I have seen those kids. I know them. And I know where you can find them. In the woods. With their scout friends.

Where each kid can contribute with what he or she knows best. Either cooking, crafting a fork from a stick or encouraging and comforting a friend.

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Scout festival, Ljubljana    © Manca Dostal

And they grow up into responsible adults. Responsible to themselves, others and nature. When these kids grow up, they give back to the environment.

And when we give back to our environment – we give back to ourselves.

Author of blog post for #EFUF2016 blog competition is Laura Žižek Kulovec, forestry engineer, researcher, who likes to walk in and learn about urban forests.

 

Do urban and peri-urban forests fulfill their hydrological function?

Last year, Janez Kermavnar finished his Master’s degree thesis at the Biotechnical faculty, University of Ljubljana. The topic of his thesis is the hydrology of selected urban and peri-urban forests in the City of Ljubljana. He wants to expose ecological benefits of forests for water, which are often taken for granted.

Urban and peri-urban forests influence on drinking water quality and quantity. With the rainfall interception, they mitigate many negative consequences of extreme weather phenomena (stormwater runoff, soil erosion, flooding etc.).

A study network of green infrastructure in and around Ljubljana provided an array of different ecosystem services. Slovenian capital has vital urban forests. Moreover, woodlands are abundant even on the city`s periphery, where peri-urban forests serve their specific aims. They are often unduly neglected, although they protect human settlements against floods and act as a buffer zone between river and neighboring agricultural land.

Healthy drinking water provisioning is one of the key factors when considering well-being of urban society. Worldwide, water quality in urbanized areas is now days often questionable. Fast urbanization and its negative effects (air, soil and water resources pollution) are onerous for whole natural environment. On the contrary, forests act as protective and selective layer between atmosphere and ground. Without that layer, there is no natural cleaning plant and rainwater (enriched with pollutants) just run off from impervious surfaces, such as asphalt or concrete, into nearest watercourses. With deep  root systems and rainfall interception in canopies, forests also prevent erosion.

Urban forests give us many things on a regular basis. What can we do in return?

Solid information on the role of urban forests in fulfilling the ecosystem services, related to water, is still limited. In order to better understand rainfall interception, we did an interesting research study. So the answer is: explore and keep the public informed about new discoveries.

Slovenian Forestry Institute (Department of Forest Ecology) measured rainfall interception in three different natural urban and peri-urban forest stands: mixed urban forest in Landscape park Rožnik, Tivoli and Šišenski hrib and in two peri-urban forests along Sava river: riparian pine forest and floodplain hardwood forest.

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Monitoring plot for measuring rainfall interception in mixed urban forest positioned just beside Slovenian Forestry Institute in Ljubljana.

Results showed that:

  • rainfall interception mainly depends on (horizontal and vertical) forest stand structure and its tree species composition;
  • mixed urban forest interception was the highest, due to its dense canopy cover and trees with greater dimensions (height, diameter);
  • in riparian pine forest and floodplain hardwood forest, shrub and understory vegetation influenced rainfall interception;
  • meteorological conditions, like rainfall intensity, can play an important role in estimating rainfall interception.

Some of these findings might be useful for sustainable forest (close-to-nature) management and urban planning. Bottom line, silvicultural plans and measures have to promote multiple forest functions (recreational activities, biodiversity, …) at the same time. Urban and peri-urban forests protect available renewable water resources. Majority of them is located in the forests or in the forest edge. Despite the fact that forest ecosystems are inevitably essential, management practice are not always in favour of providing those benefits.

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