How Important are Forest Genetics for Urban Forests? – A Report from the LIFEGENMON Parallel Session

The LIFE LIFEGENMON is an European project for the development of a forest genetic monitoring system. Selected monitoring sites for European beech and Silver fir are located in Germany, Greece and Slovenia. The project staff presented their relevant practical experiences and findings to participants of 19th European Forum on Urban Forestry in a parallel session at the Ljubljana Castle on June 1st 2016.

The first speaker was the project coordinator, Prof. Dr. Hojka Kraigher from the Slovenian Forestry Institute. She opened the session of EFUF 2016 with a brief theoretical explanation of forest genetics and concluded the presentation of the LIFEGENMON project. She explained that genetic diversity level is the basis for all higher levels of biodiversity (species, ecosystem) and that forest genetic resources are threatened by several factors, the most important of which is climate change. She also highlighted the work of the European Forest Genetic Resources Programme (EUFORGEN).

Prof. Dr. Hojka Kraigher: “Genetic diversity is the basic level of all biodiversity (species, ecosystem).”

The second presentation was more specific – Domen Finžgar (Slovenian Forestry Institute) gave a very interesting lecture about the use of UAV (drones) in forestry. He is a part of the multidisciplinary team that developed the prototype of LUCANUS, a remotely controlled drone for collecting samples in tree canopies and stated that: “Drone sampling is not science-fiction, but possible fiction. It is an unique, cost-effective, precise and safe tool.” This contribution will certainly aid to remote data sensing techniques.

Dr. Marjana Westergren discussed the importance of forest genetics for (peri)-urban woodlands and emphasized that if we want urban forest to thrive and be resilient, we have to use our knowledge of forest genetics. That means that we need to ensure sufficient gene flow in urban forests by collecting diverse seed for sowing and planting. Genetic monitoring might be especially important in (peri)-urban forests as an early warning system of changes that are about to happen at the ecosystem level.

EFUF 2016 2.6.2016

Dr. Marjana Westergren: “If we want urban forest to thrive and be resilient, we have to use our knowledge of forest genetics!”

To close the session, Dr. Evangelia Avramidou from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece) presented how trees, growing in polluted metropolitan areas of Thessaloniki, showed different phenotypic response to urban environment stresses. She stated that forest genetic monitoring is crucial for future forest ecosystem protection and is invaluable tool for sustainable forest management.

To a casual observer, the LIFEGENMON project might not have much in common with urban forestry. But after a closer look, the existing knowledge and research in the field of forest genetics can really help us understand how trees, exposed to an array of abiotic and biotic stresses in (fragmented) forest ecosystems in urbanized areas, can adapt, be more resilient and survive in the future.

Authors: Janez Kermavnar, Boris Rantaša

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.

Wednesday, 1.6.2016
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 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

How safe are urban forests?

Urban forests and green spaces should be safe and calm places. But is this really so? Read more in this blog post by Ana Simčič, a forestry engineer from Slovenia.

Cities that are surrounded by forests and have more green areas provide more quality lifestyle for their citizens. Recreation in urban forests and other green areas is one of the most appreciated and desired forest services in urban area. Jogging, walking or just hanging out with friends in urban forests is popular spending of free time during afternoons and weekends. But where more people gather, it is more likely that there will be undesired impacts left. Unfortunately, those impacts are sometimes consequences of violence that is called vandalism. It is an action involving deliberate destruction or damaging public or private property. It is a common phenomenon in public places in cities but apparently it is also inevitable in urban forests. In most cases things that are attacked by vandals are sign boards, picnic places with benches and tables, bins and also plants. But it becomes scary when vandals decide to damage trees.

My aunt once said that she is afraid of forests, because they are dark quiet places, where you can run into strange people. I thought it was so funny and was thinking that forests are probably more afraid of us than we are afraid of them. And this is not that funny anymore. Forests can live without us, but we can’t live without them. So why should they be afraid of us?

Crikvenica
Damaged wooden bench in urban forest of Crikvenica, Croatia (photo: Ana Simčič)

Vandalism is common in public areas during night or in places that are not so crowded during the day. The widespread popularity of outdoor team sports in green spaces offers many opportunities to improve health and fitness, build strong community links with young people, burn off excess energy, develop a sense of pride in physical skills and ability. It is a key element in the reduction of juvenile crime and vandalism. But still, urban forests are usually quiet, shaded and cover big areas so vandals have many locations to hide and do the damage. Unfortunately, trees are defenseless and can be an easy target for vandals. Whether the damage is caused by someone who is deliberately trying to kill a tree, or by lovers or taggers carving their initials into the bark, the end result is the same.

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Damaged urban tree

Sensitive layers of tissue lie just under the bark of a tree. This area should be protected from wounding, since wounded tissue provide an opening for pathogens and result in tree diseases.

Vandalism leaves many consequences:

  1. Fear of crime. Crime, the fear of crime, disorder and anti-social behavior in green spaces are some of the things that worry people and discourage them from using those spaces for relaxation and recreation.
  2. Investors are discouraged from the investments in new infrastructure if there are problems with vandalism or if there are abandoned areas nearby.
  3. Urgent replacement costs of broken items.
  4. Ruined aesthetics of landscape. Damaged items will give us a feeling of abandoned and dangerous place.

Vandal behavior of just a few offenders may affect all visitors in urban forests and other green spaces. We all want to enjoy nature to release our everyday worries. When we come to forests our worries should be gone and not feeling even more stressed because of damaged surroundings and injured trees.

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

 

 

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.

ecosystem_contribution_water

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

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.

Photo2_UrsaPlesnar
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.

Photo4_MancaDostal
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.

 

Resilience

We put 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. Find out more in this blog by Naomi Zürcher.

The topic Resilient Cities has prompted me to sit back and get analytical. Most of us know what a City is – the attributes as well as the downside. I have lived in a City for most of my entire life – 70 years mostly in New York but also Mexico City and now Luzern Switzerland. The 3 represent a good sampling of cities and diverse city life.

But, what about resilience? If one looks at the Oxford definition of resilience, one finds the following:

  1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness;
  2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

While I would never equate a city itself with resilience given all the layers of Governance, what a city does do is demand resilience from everything that resides within it. Envisioning a city’s residents, I can think of none that better represents the definition than the urban trees that reside in a city’s Urban Forest.

Historically, almost all of our urban trees originate in a Forest somewhere in the world. In order to understand the underpinnings of our urban trees and the extent of their resilience, we first have to understand the where and what they came from:

  • Forests are a Process of Succession, of Evolution.
  • Forests don’t happen in a day, a week, a year. They occur over millennia, beginning with the specific soils they populate.
  • Forests are a sophisticated, highly-developed community of trees and all their associates – other flora, fauna and, most importantly, soil containing a healthy soil microbial community, providing the nutrients, macro and micro, all associates in the Forest community depend on.
  • Forests evolve in direct relationship to their environment – temperature range, the soil’s pH and the availability of light and water will all dictate what is growing and where – edge or interior.
  • Although a Forest may consist of many different species of trees, space above ground is shared in competition while space below ground is shared in community.
  • Forest soil is always covered by plants, leaf litter or other organic Forest debris – a constant renewing and recycling of organic nutrient resources.
  • Trees grow with their root crown – their buttress roots – above the soil line; all parts of the tree that are covered with bark are always above the soil.

So, here are all these trees, growing in a Forest community somewhere and along we come!!!

43. Curbside trees cartoon
We plant our public trees into hardscape coffins.

First, we built roads inside the Forest creating new edges, introducing sunlight to the Forest floor, where it never was before. Then we cleared the land and evolved through cultivating it into urbanizing it. 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:

  • When we plant inner Forest trees out in the landscape, the above ground competition is now gone and with it the space restriction on the spread of the tree’s branches, resulting in a much larger crown which, when not thought about before buying the tree, usually results in the wrong tree being planted in the wrong place – requiring either constant, excess pruning or the unnecessary and premature removal of the tree.
  • We plant trees out in the lawn ignoring the competition turf inflicts on trees, both above and below ground; as a heavy feeder, grass deprives trees’ roots of essential moisture and nutrients, thus impacting and reducing tree root development.
  • If we don’t plant our trees in lawn, then we plant them where the soil is bare and we leave it that way, diminishing the soil food web and leaving trees without the renewable nutrient resources they must have.
  • We use construction equipment to build a project within a treed landscape, not realizing what we are doing to the soil and those important absorbing roots found within the top 30cm of soil; construction activities on unprotected soil usually compacts the entire underground landscape, making it inhospitable for trees’ roots. Healthy soil contains pores for air and water. Compaction crushes the pores that hold air and water. Roots cannot live in soil that has no air or water so existing roots begin to die and new ones will not grow.
  • We plant our public trees into hardscape coffins in an inaccessible, inadequate soil volume and we expect those large canopy trees to thrive and provide all those wonderfully beneficial Ecosystem Services.
  • Because the landscape underground is out of sight, it’s usually out of mind, leading to trees being planted in impossible growing conditions – too deep, in the wrong type of soil, in compacted soil or in an inadequate amount of soil to support the tree’s rooting needs – and then we blame the tree or the nursery we bought the tree because it didn’t survive or do what we had expected.

The fact that our urban trees, given their genetics and evolution, have found ways to deal with everything our cities and the new, very dynamic associate – us – inflict on them, one could, without any hesitation, give them the resilience award of the century. They not only embody the very spirit of the word “resilience”, they endure.

It behooves us – scientists, researches, academics and practitioners – to afford the powers that be an enhanced understanding of what City life could be if we, in the midst of all our urban UN-naturalness, recognized that when you plant a tree, you begin an entire universe so why not begin it tree -positive and really create a Forest in a then resilient city.

Naomi Zürcher is an independent Consulting Arborist and Urban Forester as Arbor Aegis and is involved with the current COST Action GreenInUrbs  project.

Photo courtesy of the New Yorker Magazine.

 

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.

SFI monitoring plot_Kermavnar
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.

The Secret Life Of Trees

Do trees have a secret life that we rarely think about? Find out in this blog by Astrid Hamm, a consultant in the fields of Urban Forestry and Urban Greening currently working in Germany.

Forests are communities of trees. Most people look at trees as woody plants that provide us with timber. Many people enjoy their recreational aspects, landscape aesthetics, and their positive influences on human health and well-being. In recent years, our professional focus has moved on to numerous ecosystem services and environmental benefits trees provide to our society, such as reducing air pollution and storm water attenuation.

We are Urban Forestry professionals – but do we really know enough about trees? Are there different aspects to trees and urban forests that we haven’t explored yet?

Trees are the second-largest, but above-ground largest living beings on earth. Do we ever consider that trees may be able to communicate and interact with each other? Do trees have a ‘social life’? Do they care for other trees? Is there such a thing as ‘sympathy’, preference or dislike among trees and tree species – is it possible that a tree “can’t smell” (= dislikes) another tree? Can trees pass on their ‘knowledge’ to others? Do they communicate with each other, or even with us? Is it possible for trees to interact, even though they are fixed to their location?

In his book “The Secret Life Of Trees” German Forester Peter Wohlleben writes about a wide variety of ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ research studies from all over the world, looking at trees from different perspectives. He describes the forest as a community where strong trees support weaker ‘community members’. Similar to human society, a natural forest seems to work along the principle ‘together we are strong’. According to various studies, trees interact and communicate with each other in several ways. They also take care of each other and look after their offspring, as well as nursing the ‘elderly’. If there are pest attacks or other dangers approaching, they will ‘warn’ other trees by releasing gaseous odors. Similar to humans, they don’t like to interact with just any other tree. So is there such a thing as “tree sympathy”? Do trees develop “feelings”, such as compassion, like and dislike?

Wohlleben wants us to acknowledge trees as living beings they are. He presents scientific findings in his own language, comprehensible for everyone. He passionately campaigns for a different – more humane – attitude towards trees as social ‘creatures’ with their own needs and requirements as members of a forest community.

So maybe Urban Foresters have to learn much more about ‘the secret life of trees’ beyond our current knowledge to effectively promote urban forests.

‘The Secret Life Of Trees’ will be translated into English in autumn 2016, after being a top ten bestseller in the category “non-fiction” in Germany 2015.

This book is an appeal to everyone that we can still learn a lot about and from trees.

Wohlleben Cover

This blog post is authored by Astrid Hamm and is a part of the #EFUF2016 blog competition. Join in to win a free conference package! Want to learn more about Astrid’s work? Visit her project Citybranching/Stadtverzwingungen!

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

Emonfur2

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.

Emnofur1
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.