European Forum on Urban Forestry [EFUF] 2019 – Conference summary

Summary written by Clive Davies, Chair of EFUF International Steering Group. 

Following a welcome reception on the previous evening in the Brauhaus Paeffgen; delegates attending EFUF2019 (held at the German Sport University in Cologne, Germany  from the 22 – 25th May 2019), were, following an opening ceremony,  welcomed to the Forum by dignitaries representing the Ministry for Environment, Agriculture, Nature and Consumer Protection of the Federal State of North Rhine Westphalia, the City of Cologne and the German Sport University, Cologne.  In her speech, the Lord Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, highlighted how important the greenspaces and forests of the city are, and that along with the River Rhine and the City’s long and notable history, are the ‘signatures’ of the city.

The venue for EFUF 2019, the German Sport University, Cologne is located within the City’s greenbelt and is abundantly provided with urban trees and also offers direct access to many paths and trails.  As Renate Späth, one of the organiser’s said, on her first visit to the campus, “I was completely struck about how ideal the venue was for EFUF – a university located in the middle of an urban forest”.  Indeed, the location was good given that most of the excursions during the Forum were undertaken directly from the University on foot or bicycle.

EFUF2019 participants learning about the Green Belt Cologne, nearby the German Sport University

The first plenary speaker, Dr Joachim Bauer, from the City of Cologne, gave a wide overview along with a detailed historical explanation of the City’s green infrastructure, especially focused on the urban forest.  Repeated instances of the creation and subsequent de-militarisation of training and defence areas especially after the 1st and 2nd World Wars had given the city an outstanding green infrastructure network.  The result is that there are now three discernible green belts, most visible in the west of the city (left bank) comprised of an inner ring, outer ring and more recently a peripheral ring the latter devised in cooperation with adjacent local administrations.

On the first day of the Forum three plenary presentations by Roland Gustavsson, Arne Arnberger, Michela Conigliaro & Fabio Salbitano focused delegates’ attention on landscape and forest laboratories, urban outdoor health benefits and the outcomes of the WFUF meeting in Mantova in November 2018 respectively.  Key points to emerge from Roland Gustavsson was that landscape and forest laboratories are ideal areas to ‘test drive the urban forest’, that woodlands ‘between 10 and 20 years old have as many teenager problems as young people do’ and that (in jest) ‘whereas a forester loves his chainsaw an urban forester loves forest design’.  A key point to emerge from Arne Arnberger was that the journey ‘to and from’ an area of outdoor recreation, provide many of the benefits in terms of exercise and recreation and are hence, an equal  part of the recreation and health benefits, especially if this return journey is undertaken on a green route.  Michela Conigliaro and Fabio Salbitano talked about the first World Forum on Urban Forestry (WFUF) held in Mantova in November 2018.  They drew attention to the ‘call for action’ issued at that meeting saying that it should be considered as a manifesto for cities and announced that a second World Forum on Urban Forestry will take place in 2022.  In the meantime, it is planned to hold an annual workshop in Milan, Italy.  Later on, day 1 delegates moved out of doors for excursions in the urban forest. 

Michela Conigliaro and Fabio Salbitano sharing the outcomes of the 1st World Forum on Urban Forestry

On the first evening the annual meeting of the EFUF International Steering Group (ISG) was held.  The organisers had earlier apologized to delegates as the published programme had implied this was a private rather than an open meeting.  The latter was true.  The ISG meeting discussed amongst other items; venues for future Forums up to 2024, a possible Urban Forestry presence along with others at Floriade 2022 in the Netherlands, ‘how to organise an EFUF’ guidelines and potential future governance arrangements for EFUF.

Day 2 of EFUF 2019 started with a plenary session with speakers, Frank Lohrberg, Bianca Bärlocher and Lorien Nesbit.  Frank Lohrberg introduced the Waldlabor (woodland laboratory) in the Cologne greenbelt and invited delegates to visit the site where students from France and Germany were working on projects to coincide with the Forum.  Bianca Bärlocher focused on public narratives, collective actions and digital story-telling and used the person of Naomi Zürcher – a well-known EFUF attendee – to tell a digital story.  Finally, in this session Lorien Nesbit spoke about co-creation, nature-based solutions and urban green equity. 

After the day 2 plenary session had finished, poster presenters had one minute each to present their poster. Twenty-four (24) posters were available for viewing in the University lobby throughout the duration of the Forum.  Delegates were overheard commenting that the standard of posters was extremely high, both in terms of presentation and intellect.

Poster display at the German Sport University

The core part of each EFUF is the parallel sessions.  This year more than 50 speakers, across nine streams and over two days gave oral presentations.  Many of the speakers represented larger groups of researchers and/or practitioners.  Each session had a theme and were chaired by an eminent person in each field.

  • Sports and forests; Session Chair: Stefan TÜRK (German Sport University). Discussions focused on the development of sports-related infrastructure in the forest which will continue to be one of the major challenges for forest owners and tourism professionals in the future; that mental and physiological health as well as physical fitness benefit from regular stays and sports activities; that sometimes it helps to have a motivator to do sports which is where the idea of Parkrun comes in; that informal mountain biking in urban forests can lead to problems but that the designation or creation of attractive trails can help although the infrastructure must be planned and managed according.
  • Spiritual Forests; Session Chair: Paolo SEMENZATO (University of Padua).  Discussions focused on which spiritual values are relevant in the urban forest and following discussion it was agreed that often they can be more relevant than the environmental services; that spiritual forest spaces have a rising importance in society and that one example of this trend is the funeral forest; that there is a demonstrable relationship between spiritual values and ecological characteristics of the forest; that the appropriateness of the term spiritual has been debated and that whilst spiritual is often associated with religion and faith, spiritual values extend beyond that; that spiritual values are strongly linked to cultural values and that for many people, forests serve as reminders that as humans they are not opposed to nature, but rather intimately connected with it, themselves subject to the order of the natural world.
  • Learning Forest: Forest Laboratories; Session Chair: Frank LOHRBERG (RWTH Aachen University). Discussions focused on how urban challenges were constantly changing; the desirability of forest laboratories as experimental areas and how these should also be the focus for learning networks; the crucial role of ‘design’ and how this can be used creatively in urban energy forests and the interaction between forest laboratories and local education (schools, colleges etc).
  • Co-Design: Governance I; – Session Chair; Naomi ZÜRCHER (Arbor Aegis, Switzerland).  Discussions focused on challenges to urban forests, innovations such as fee charging for the percentage of impermeable surfaces, participatory methods, urban planning and cultural adaptation within forestry.
  • Health and well-being; Session Chair; Stefan TÜRK (German Sport University).  Discussions focused on the fact that in the future we will spend our lives more and more indoors and in cities and that this makes it important to preserve or re-plan city forests and urban green spaces with their diverse salutogenic effects and that in the future, there will need to be more places where forest therapy or forest bathing can happen; that if we combine these different interests with each other we can achieve diversity in urban forests; that at present we should make urban forests childlike environments to counter the problems caused by children suffering from obesity, depression and stress; that successful planning and design of suitable urban forest areas requires knowledge of the relationships between landscape, areas and paths on the one hand and their use on the other, and that unfortunately, classical forest inventories provide such planning data only insufficiently so there is a requirement for socio-cultural forest monitoring.
  • Co-Design: Governance II; Session Chair; Ian WHITEHEAD (RWTH Aachen University). Discussions focused on the need to understand biogeographical requirements; improving communications within and between local authority departments;  working at a metropolitan as well as city level, sharing experience between different cities (a role for EFUF?);  future proofing the urban forest through climate change adaptation, not losing sight of the urban fringe as a key area for social forestry and the need to engage local authorities in a dialogue about urban forestry NBS.
  • Co-Design: Management; Session Chair; John PARKER (Transport for London).  Discussions focused on how sampling methods affect the applicability of i-Tree results for communicating the ecosystem services of planted and maintained urban trees; the role of cemetery management in maintaining the urban forest of Halifax, Canada; making regulating ecosystem services visible – a GIS-based analysis of Cologne’s Urban Forests; the opportunities and risks concerning the automation of urban green infrastructure and LIFE URBANGREEN – an innovative technological platform to improve management of green areas for better climate adaptation.
  • Co-Design: Planning; Session Chair; Andreas BERNASCONI (Pan Bern, Switzerland). Discussions focused on the potential of green infrastructure within social networks; wilderness character in urban woods; the need to combine ES analysis with social-economic approaches; trade-offs between goals and interests and the need for a mix of tree species in urban spaces as ‘one tree never fits all places’

In addition to the parallel sessions, there was also an outdoor demonstration led by Steffen RUST (University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Göttingen, Germany); a side session titled: ‘A stick or a carrot?’ – How can cities retain existing trees and plant more trees on private lands? convened by Camilo ORDÓÑEZ (University of Melbourne, Australia); an excursion to the nature reserve Wahner Heide and Gut Leidenhausen; a session titled the ‘Learning Forest – Environmental Education’ at Gut Leidenhausen led by Stefanie STEINEBACH (University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Göttingen, Germany) & Anna COKER (Office for Landscape Management and Green Areas of the City of Cologne) and a ‘Forest Mind Workshop’ at Gut Leidenhausen with Katriina KILPI (ForestMinded, Belgium & Finland).

Environmental education session at Gut Leidenhausen

On day 3, in the final session of EFUF 2019, Clive Davies, Chair of the EFUF International Steering Group summarised key outcomes from EFUF 2019 and thanked the principal support organisations by name: the Municipality of Cologne – Office for Landscape Management and Green Areas; the German Sport University Cologne; RWTH Aachen University – Institute of Landscape Architecture; Ministry for Environment, Agriculture, Nature and Consumer Protection of the Federate State of North Rhine-Westphalia; University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Göttingen; and the European Forest Institute (EFI).  He thanked all delegates whether they were presenters or not for their input and special mention went to Rik De Vresse, his colleagues at EFI Bonn and the students from IFSA for their conference organisation and unstinting helpfulness.

Alan Simson then presented the venue and themes for EFUF 2020.  This will be held at the ‘Innside’ Manchester (north west England) between the 19th and 22nd May 2020.  The conference themes will be based around issues of ‘resilience’.  Delegates were urged to block out these dates in their diaries and also book early to avoid disappointment.

Clive Davies then presented the prestigious award of European Young Urban Forester of the Year (sponsored by MD2 Consulting Ltd and Urban Forestry & Urban Greening Journal) to Thomas Campagnaro and a certificate of commendation to Rocco Pace; both of whom had been very strong candidates.

Finally, Frank Lohrberg invited delegates to visit the Waldlabor to see the results of the students work and enjoy some food and local beer.  Following lunch, delegates walked to the Waldabor.  The visit was very well received, and the students had created many interesting installations within the energy forest areas.  They clearly enjoyed spending time together and their enthusiasm was very clearly demonstrated.

EFUF2019 participants enjoying one of the installations at the Waldlabor Cologne

For those who had booked, on Saturday 25th May there was a post conference excursion to Drachenfels near Bonn and a visit to the EFI Bonn offices for a presentation on the work of the Institute.

This summary is not conference proceedings.

Photo credits to: Joshua Amaitum, Andreas Bernasconi, Vera Knill, Silvio Oggioni, Maria Schlossmacher, Annebel Soer

Extended information on the venue, excursion sites and presentations, including abstracts, can be found at the EFUF2019 website. For further pictures, check the EFUF Facebook site. Stay tuned and see you in EFUF2020 Manchester!

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