UN: Urban Trees Needed Everywhere

green space istanbul
Tighten your city’s green belt on World Habitat Day: Plant trees everywhere, in cities all over the Middle East.

When we think of treehuggers, and people who advocate treeplanting, we think 80s hippie, or Julia Butterfly Hill, the gal who lived in a tree for 2.5 years to fight against deforestation. Or the old-fashioned model of the Jewish National Fund to plant trees everywhere in Israel. But in a new move, a United Nations body urges cities of the world (and the people who live in them – that’s us!) to start planting trees to mitigate climate change. There are a lot of benefits, as many of us know, to trees in the urban space. And the UN organization report will highlight what and how.

According to a new report released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizations, more focused policies and investments aimed at protecting and managing forest and trees in and around cities are needed to strengthen urban livelihoods and improve city environments, as the world becomes increasingly urbanized.

This was the message offered today on the occasion of World Habitat Day.

As an increasing share of the world’s population now lives in cities and their surroundings, the report calls on countries to pay more attention to managing and protecting urban and peri-urban forests.

In addition to improving the quality of urban environments, forests in cities can also mitigate severe weather impacts by shielding buildings from strong winds and flooding and can help cities save energy by acting as a buffer from hot weather.

Once they grow deep enough, trees in parched areas can thrive by themselves in most cases.

“The accelerating rate of natural disturbances affecting cities such as storms, droughts, floods and landslides reminds us that resilience to disasters is of critical importance and that trees play an important role in protecting city environments,” said FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Briales.

“Good practices in urban and peri-urban forestry can contribute to building a resilient city in terms of mitigation and adaptation to the effects of climate change.”

A no brainer for environmentalists

Urban forests also improve the well-being and health conditions of citizens by cooling the environment, particularly in arid zones. That means less air conditioning.

“Trees and forests in cities provide urban dwellers with much needed recreational and ecological values, and during the International Year of Forests we have seen many examples of community activities in cities from tree plantings to nature hikes,” said Ms. Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat. “These ‘green belts’ also serve as valuable habitats for birds and small animals and create an oasis of biological diversity in urban environments.”

Additionally, urban trees afford vital ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and carbon storage, and can serve as a source of alternative energy.

Urban agriculture and agroforestry, home gardens, and the harvesting of non-wood forest products like mushrooms can supplement household food supplies, but are not common practices, globally. Some cities, like Toronto, have started to see locavores scavenging for food products from the city trees and green spaces.

Urban forests can also serve as a living laboratory for environmental education in urban settings helping to bridge the gap between urbanized populations and forests.

“Often unclear responsibilities for different parts of the urban forests, lack of policies and legislation, as well as lack of comprehensive information, hamper successful integrated approaches to urban forestry,” said Cecil Konijnendijk, Deputy Coordinator of a research group on urban forestry initiated by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).

How can you start sowing seed bombs?

The guidelines, which set to be published in July 2012, will give a comprehensive review of good practices and highlight significant initiatives taken around the world in order to contribute to improved policy development and decision making.

Image of green space in Istanbul via argenberg

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2 thoughts on “UN: Urban Trees Needed Everywhere”

  1. Frank Newman says:

    I remember Butterfly. I followed her story constantly and was so proud of her! 🙂
    My wife passed away reecently and I want to buy as much acreage as I can and start a Memorial Forest in her name. I’ll know more about that in a couple of weeks.
    Thank you for what you are doing. Please keep it up.

    Frank Newman
    12629 NE 73rd St.
    Kirkland, WA 98033
    [email protected]

  2. Tinamarie says:

    For some, economic conditions prevent them from planting trees, though I think the ideal is stellar and we should all support it 100%.

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