Overstory #213 - Urban Forestry for Multifunctional Urban Land Use
The contributions of forests, trees and other urban green areas to the quality of urban life and the environment can be significant. When existing good practices are built upon, urban forestry has shown significant contributions to the quality of urban life and the environment, together with other types of comprehensive green-space planning and management concepts. Through agroforestry systems, for example, urban forestry and urban agriculture join forces in supporting livelihoods. Urban forestry has been developed in response to the call for innovative, comprehensive concepts that promote the multiple benefits of urban green space. Sometimes named urban and peri-urban forestry, the concept encompasses the planning and management of forests and other tree resources in and close to urban areas and thus integrates different parts of urban green structures.
World-wide urbanisation brings with it a wide range of challenges. The demand for land increases, and the energy, resource, water and waste disposal needs of urban populations need to be met. Especially in the developing world, where most mega-cities are located and urbanisation is particularly rapid and not necessarily controlled, providing good living conditions to urban populations is one of the main challenges of our time (UN Habitat, 2004). Policymakers are facing tremendous pressures to develop city management strategies that strive for sustainable cities where all inhabitants can enjoy at least a fair quality of life and a reasonably healthy environment.
In the quest for healthy, liveable and sustainable cities, urban green spaces with trees as a major component play an important role. They can help improve livelihoods, temper harsh urban climates, conserve biodiversity, and contribute to better human health. During recent years, integrative and strategic concepts and fields of activity have been developed and implemented across the globe to promote and develop tree-based resources catering to multiple urban demands. Urban forestry is one such promising concept, which in recent years has gained the capacity to cater to a wide range of urban needs and realities.
Trees and forests for sustainable cities
Challenges related to urbanisation are very significant. Basic concerns such as the provision of food, housing, sanitation and employment have highest priority and are still to be addressed, especially in the developing countries. Urban green space therefore will only be given political priority if it can be used to meet these major urban challenges. Past experience has shown that urban green spaces form more than just a "supplementary" urban infrastructure and can even help provide livelihoods. The goods and services provided by forests and trees in or close to urban centres can be grouped into three main value-based categories.
Economic and livelihood values of urban green
Poverty alleviation and food security are high on the agenda of many international institutions and development aid programmes. With half of the world's population living in cities and towns, urban agriculture plays an important role in this respect. Many countries have a long tradition of urban dwellers supplementing their diet and/or economy with local agricultural produce (Urban Agriculture Magazine no. 13. 2004). Establishing woodlots in villages and close to urban centres relieves the pressure on natural forests for fuelwood, poles and fodder. Urban forests can enhance urban agricultural production, primarily in agroforestry systems (FAO 2003, Akinbamijo, 2004). Growing trees in combination with other crops or with keeping animals adds value through enhancement of microclimate and other growing conditions and diversification of produce, for example. Timber and other wood products can be very important in urban areas; large parts of the urban population of Africa, for instance, are still heavily dependent upon fuelwood. In times of war and conflict city dwellers have often turned to nearby woodland for illegal cutting of fuelwood, as in the case of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1990s war that split up Yugoslavia (FAO, 2005a). Forests and trees also provide non-wood forest products such as mushrooms, berries, (medicinal) herbs, rattan, seeds, leaves etc. In the industrialised countries, cities have often turned to green areas for providing attractive environments for businesses to settle in and people to live in (Konijnendijk 2003). The generally positive impact of nearby well-managed forests, green areas and trees on real estate prices and business development has been documented during recent years, for instance through hedonic pricing studies (Wolf, 2004; Tyrväinen et al., 2005).
Environmental and ecological values of urban green
Many of the environmental services provided by urban green space are characterised as climatic or engineering benefits, offering a "green infrastructure" to cities and towns. Of particular importance in both the developed and developing world is the role of forest resources in water management. Many of the world's largest cities rely on fully or partially protected forests in nearby or more remote catchment areas for much of their drinking water. Additional protective measures are often needed to ensure high quality drinking water from these watersheds (Dudley & Stolton, 2004). Quito in Ecuador is one of several Latin American cities that has taken active steps, financially supported by the creation of a water consumption fee, to protect their watershed forests (Echavarria, 2001). In arid regions, forest shelterbelts around cities help combat desertification (FAO ,1999). Trees reduce storm water runoff and can assist with processing wastewater. Urban green also protects soils and moderates harsh urban climates, for example, by cooling the air, reducing wind speeds and giving shade (Tyrväinen et al., 2005). Trees and other vegetation intercept particles and gaseous pollutants and thus help reduce air pollution, as a study of Beijing, China, has shown (Yang et al., 2005). Moreover, forests and trees in cities act as carbon sinks in the equations relevant within the context of global warming (Johnson & Gerhold 2003). The level of biodiversity of urban green areas is often surprisingly high, representing nature and the "wild" close to where people live (Kowarik & Körner 2004, Stewart et al., 2004).
Social and cultural values of urban green
The recreational values of forests, parks, gardens and other urban green areas are especially well documented in the Western world. Urban woodland in Europe attracts thousands of recreational visits per hectare per year (Konijnendijk 2003). The large majority of all recreational use of forests takes place in areas not more than 1-2 km from people's homes (Hörnsten 2000). The aesthetic values of trees and green have been known for centuries; urban green space makes for better, more attractive cities. Urban green can have a positive impact on people's physical and mental health by providing settings for physical exercise, reducing ultraviolet radiation and air pollution, and lowering stress levels (eg. Grahn & Stigsdotter 2003). By being actively involved in tree planting and management, local communities can be strengthened and crime rates can be reduced (Kuo 2003). In many developing countries, trees often have cultural and spiritual values that could assist new urban dwellers in finding their place in cities and towns. Today's green spaces and the way they are used and managed can thus have strong historical roots (Forrest and Konijnendijk 2005).
The concept of urban forestry
Natural resource planning and management in highly dynamic urban societies are complex activities. Therefore, concepts and strategies that extend beyond conventional boundaries and involve a wide range of disciplines as well as stakeholders are needed. In the case of forests, tree-based systems and other green resources in and near urban areas, these concepts should recognise the multiple values provided, as well as the role green spaces can play in sustainable development. For the last three decades, the social aspects of forestry have been widely recognised (eg., through social and community forestry), encouraging fair and equitable sharing of forest benefits by the local population, access and use rights, and the participation of civil society in decisionmaking processes related to the sustainable use of tree and forest resources (Wiersum, 1999). The experience and expertise gained by community-based forest resource conflict management is most relevant for land use and land use change issues in urban environments (FAO, 2002a).
In line with the dynamics described above, the concept of urban forestry has been developed and implemented as a framework for integrated planning and management of urban (and peri-urban, i.e. adjacent to urban centres) tree resources. The most widely used definition of urban forestry was developed by Miller (1997) who calls it "an integrated, city-wide approach to the planting, care and management of trees in the city to secure multiple environmental and social benefits for urban dwellers". Urban forestry, initially developed in North America, has gradually gained a larger following among scientists and practitioners across the world, although the precise scope and content of the concept remain topics of expert debate (Randrup et al., 2005).
Urban forestry is generally considered to encompass all aspects of establishing, conserving and managing tree systems in or near urban areas. This implies that it also incorporates growing trees as part of agroforestry systems and taking care of individual trees through arboriculture1. The areas of intervention of urban forestry in relation to the green structure and distribution include three areas: form design, functions and policies; technical aspects; and management of both individual trees and urban woodlands see also table 14.1 (Randrup et al. 2005). Traditionally, the forestry sector neglected the urban environment, paying more attention to the rural areas. Nowadays, the sector tends to include more comprehensively the concept of "trees outside forests" (FAO 2001, FAO & CIRAD 2002), with an improved approach to landscape management, agroforestry and urban forestry. From the perspective of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), urban and periurban forestry considers tree-based systems at large in or adjacent to urban areas (Kotka III 1996; FAO & CIRAD, 2002).
Main principles of the concept urban forestry
The concept of urban forestry has several main principles, which include:
Urban forestry is integrative and comprehensive
The concept incorporates different green-space elements into a whole (the "Urban Forest") and thus promotes a holistic view (Mock 2004; Pauleit et al., 2005). It aims for more integrated land-use systems, for example by combining forest, agricultural, nature conservation and recreational areas. It builds on the notion that sustainability of tree-based systems is not exclusive to forest resources, but also applies to other systems such as agroforestry systems and lined tree plantings. Integration also occurs in land ownership, closely related to legal or customary rights of access to and use of the land, the trees and their products (tenure aspects).
Urban forestry is strategic
Urban forestry envisions development of long-term policies and plans responding to the needs for tree resources and urbanisation prospects, connecting to different sectors, agendas and programmes, and taking into account the continuous tendencies of expansion and densification of cities (Mock 2004, Ottitsch & Krott, 2005). This is particularly true when poverty, conflicts and natural disasters force the rural population to migrate into cities (UN Habitat, 2004b).
Urban forestry is multisectoral, multidisciplinary and aims to become interdisciplinary
Urban forestry is built on the involvement of experts and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines and professional backgrounds. These do not only include natural resource professionals, but also planners, social scientists, economists, and others. Urban forestry thus operates beyond traditional sectoral and disciplinary boundaries (Miller 1997; Nilsson et al., 2005).
Urban forestry emphasises social inclusiveness
Developing partnerships between different stakeholders is a key element of urban forestry. While respecting local cultures and traditions, the concept emphasises the involvement of different segments of local communities in managing and using tree resources (Mock 2004, Van Herzele et al., 2005). It promotes decentralisation, public participation, transparency and accountability, and fair and equitable sharing of benefits and access to resources. The development of true partnerships often require the establishment of new institutions, for example public-private, or new public institutions that involve multiple layers of government (Jones et al., 2005).
Urban forests are multifunctional
Urban forestry caters to the needs of urban society by providing multiple benefits. These include the various economic and livelihood, environmental and ecological, and socio-cultural goods and services urban forests can offer (Mock 2004, Tyrväinen et al., 2005).
The world's urban forest resources
One of the challenges facing urban forestry is the difficulty to operationalise the concept. This may partly explain why there is very limited information available on the extent of urban forest resources. International, national and even local resource inventories and monitoring of developments are scarce. One important variable is the geographical limit of urban (and peri-urban), which varies from one site to another and in time. Another variable is the type of resources in terms of tree-based and greening systems being considered. For its Forest Resource Assessments (FRAs), FAO defines three main categories, namely "forest and forest land", "other wooded lands" and "trees outside forests" (Kotka III 1996, Kotka IV 2002). These are all found in urban and peri-urban areas and include for example parks, gardens and street trees and agroforestry systems. The FRA's activities and mandate have increased substantially over the two last decades and FAO has been requested to pay more attention to aspects such as non-wood forest products and trees outside forests. Consequently, trees outside forests comprise an important area for future assessments as mentioned in the FRA 2000 report (FAO, 2001).
A study by the United States Forest Service (Dwyer et al., 2000) was the first comprehensive national level assessment of urban forest resources. A combination of methods was applied, including satellite imagery, national statistical data and assessments of particular cities or metropolitan areas. Tree canopy cover was used as a more reliable indicator than land use types. The assessment showed, amongst others, that 3.8 billion trees in urban areas cover 27.1 percent of the land, i.e. about 1 percent of the country.
Europe has not seen countrywide or international comparative assessments of urban forest resources so far, in spite of some efforts, especially by the European Environment Agency (Pauleit et al 2005). An explorative study by Pauleit et al., (2002) used tree canopy cover as an objective indicator and found municipal canopy cover of selected European cities to range from 1.5 to 62 percent. In some European cases resource data has been compiled on specific elements of the urban forest, such as woodlands within municipal boundaries. From the information available, be it sketchy and hardly comparable, the significance of urban forest resources in Europe does emerge. Urban and peri-urban woodland alone covers several millions of hectares (Konijnendijk 2003).
Urban forest resource information from other parts of the world is even more difficult to obtain. Some of the sparse insights in Asian urban forest resources have been provided by Kuchelmeister (1998), Webb (1999) and Palijon (2004), while more recently an increasing amount of data is also emerging from China (eg. Jim & Liu 2001; Yang et al., 2005). Information on urban forest resources in selected cities of northern and western Africa, Latin America and Central Asian cities have also been documented through case studies (FAO 1999, CIFOR & IDRC, 2003).
Although information on the natural resource base is scattered or incomplete, varies in quality and is not adequately disseminated, it can be concluded that the potential of urban forest resources is under-developed. The status, size and structure of these resources are often significant but vary greatly. Findings also suggest that urban green space is under pressure from other forms of land use in most parts of the world, although recent afforestation in Europe, for example, has led to an increase in urban (forest) resources at local level.
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This article was excerpted with the kind permission of the publisher and authors from:
Konijnendijk, C. and M. Gauthier. 2006. Urban Forestry for Multifunctional Urban Land Use. In: René van Veenhuizen (editor).Cities Farming for the Future - Urban Agriculture for Green and Productive Cities. RUAF Foundation, IDRC and IIRR.
About the authors
Dr Cecil Konijnendijk, a Dutch national based in Denmark, has studied and promoted the role of trees and woodland in urban societies throughout his career. After employment with the European Forest Institute and the Danish Centre for Forest, Landscape and Planning, Cecil set up woodSCAPE consult in 2004. His present work includes training and advising urban forestry professionals, research and writing about urban forestry issues. He has coordinated several international networks and research projects within urban forestry, for example for the International Union of Forest Research Organizations. He is editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.
Michelle Gauthier a forest engineer graduated of Laval University, Canada (1978) was first employed by the Ministry of National Resources in Quebec (Canada). Since 1982 she has been working as international forestry specialist for NGOs and Private Enterprises (e.g. CECI, CARE Canada, Roche, and TECSULT Inc.) and bilateral agencies (SIDA and CIDA). In 1994, she joined the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, based in Rome, Italy; she was seconded to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD/UNEP) from 2001-2003. She is Forestry Officer (agroforestry and land use) in the FAO Forest Management Division, and also in charge of the urban and periurban forestry programme.
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