A tree awakening – Call for Action

Did you know that urban trees and forests provide vital infrastructure for healthy and happy people? Are you aware that they are protecting and enhancing biodiversity and co-creating a climate-adapted built environment?

Three recently awarded ‘Tree Cities of the World’; City of Ljubljana, Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) and Brussels Capital Region are taking the lead on promoting the crucial role of urban trees towards greener and more resilient cities and urban regions. The three cities and regions differ in character but have demonstrated a commitment to urban trees within the framework of urban forestry, green infrastructure and the enhancement of local ecosystem services. 

The ‘tree awakening’ is a partner event of the EU Green Week. The  European Forum on Urban Forestry (EFUF), European Forest Institute (EFI) and CLEARING HOUSE project, brought together these three cities and regions to kick-off anactivity – focus – celebration of trees and to build and strengthen existing relationships across Europe. The ‘tree awakening’ event invited practitioners, researchers, policymakers, journalists and citizens eager to explore ways to work together towards a greener and more resilient future in cities.

Christophe Vanoerbeek, the Brussels Mobility CEO said:

Brussels is regularly cited as one of the greenest cities in Europe, with an impressive surface area of 4,000 hectares of green spaces. Brussels Mobility manages 30,000 trees along the main roads. To increase the ecosystemic benefits (landscape, biodiversity, water infiltration, shading, heat reduction, CO2 capture, etc.), we encourage the development of high trees. The management of plantations has evolved enormously to take into account biodiversity and new methods. For example, Brussels Mobility takes care of +/- 15 hectares of ecological zones and flower meadows.”

Antoni Farrero, General Coordinator of the Technical Office of Management of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB), added:

“Belonging to international networks, such as the European Forum on Urban Forestry (EFUF) or the Tree Cities of the World, encourages us to continue working towards the renaturation of urban fabrics, the reinforcement of green infrastructure and the promotion of ecosystem services.”

Nataša Jazbinšek Seršen, Head of Department for Environmental Protection at the City of Ljubljana, continued:

“Looking at Ljubljana is looking at a city of the future! Numerous city trees and forests connect us, contribute to the health and well-being of citizens and give a unique backdrop to the Green capital.”

Call for Action:

We urge citizens and local leaders and decision-makers across urban regions in Europe to be inspired and step up towards recognising, building awareness, communicating and taking ownership of the benefits of urban trees for all living being in a city.
  • It’s not just planting but caring: There’s much more to enhancing urban green then just planting trees – caring for, respecting, and ensuring a long lifetime of an urban tree is crucial to ensure it develops its ecosystem potential. However, urban tree care remains a great challenge for those managing urban regions.
  • Caring for life – from seed to soil: Brought up in nurseries, going through adolescence and calling for pruning from time to time, dispersing seeds and finally returning back to the soil. A tree’s life is not that different from ours – and calls for a lifetime of care.
  • Trees – you get more than you see: Green space planning needs to focus on the benefits of trees both individually and when growing together. Considering trees as an ecological umbrella covering an urban region is fundamental to understanding their overall benefit to society.
  • Big Trees Matter: Urban regions need veteran trees as these provide the most ecosystem services and are the most important to people. Whilst planting new trees is important the loss of a mature tree before its lifetime is over takes generations to recover.

Elisabeth Pötzelsberger, Head of Resilience at the European Forest Institute (EFI) and Chris Baines, environmental campaigner, award-winning writer and broadcaster opened up the event, joined by high-level representatives from the European Union, the ‘Tree Cities of the World’ representatives from Slovenia, Spain, Belgium and international urban forestry experts.

Chris Baines reported:

“Mature trees have been breathing life into our towns and cities for centuries. Now, in the face of climate change, increasingly extreme weather patterns, relentless development pressure and stressful urban living, the moderating role they play is more important than ever.”

Thomas Randrup, professor in Urban Open Space Management and Head of Subject for Landscape Governance and Management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) shed light on the importance of moving from Nature-Based Solutions to Nature-Based Thinking. He emphasised:

“Nature-based Thinking is a way to address Nature-based Solutions as places in their own right rather than installations, helping them to become more resilient and sustainable.”

Simone Borelli, Agroforestry and Urban/Periurban Forestry Officer at the Forestry Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), presented the ‘Tree Cities of the World’ and stated:

“It is time to shift paradigm. Urban forests and trees should no longer be seen as a cost, but as an investment in the future of cities. The Tree Cities of the World programme celebrates the achievements of the cities that are taking steps in the right direction.”

Cecil. C. Konijnendijk van den Bosch, global urban forester and director of the Nature-Based Solutions Insitute (NBSI) introduced the 3-30-300 rule, shared his experience on the importance of trees in cities and explained:

 “For someone who has worked in urban forestry for almost three decades, it is exciting to see the current ‘tree awakening’ across Europe, as we have come to realise how important trees are for our health, wellbeing, and happiness.”

During an interactive Q&A session, participants had the opportunity to engage in discussions with the speakers, moderated by John Parker, CEO at the Arboricultural Association. This was followed by a technical panel discussion moderated by Clive Davies, Convenor of the EFUF International Steering Group, Senior Researcher, Advisor and Facilitator at European Forest Institute (EFI) Governance and Resilience Programmes and CLEARING HOUSE project, which explored the opportunities and challenges of managing trees in urban regions. The virtual stage featured insights by Nejc Praznik, Consulting arborist at JP VOKA SNAGA, Ljubljana, Valérie Decoux, Bio-Engineer at the Brussels Mobility, Public Service of the Brussels Capital Region and Antoni Farrero, General Coordinator of the Technical Office of Management of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB).

The ‘tree awakening’ opened an inspiring and positive discourse about the manifold benefits and challenges of managing trees in urban regions without dodging difficult questions. The insights and discussions serve as an impulse and starting point to awake consciousness and activate decision-makers to take practical action on transforming concrete jungles towards liveable shared spaces with multifunctional, interconnected and open, accessible green spaces for all.

As part of the ‘tree awakening’ self-guided tree discovery walks have been created for the City of Ljubljana, the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) and the Brussels Capital Region. These walks are designed to help the public explore the trees in these areas, whether as residents in-situ, virtual or actual visitors.

The self-guided tree discovery walks are presented through the ActionBound app and are intended as an inspiration to other urban regions to produce further walks.

The walks can be explored at any time through the ActionBound app.

Download the app by clicking on this link or scanning the QR-Code:

Access the tree discovery walks by clicking on the links below or by scanning the QR-Codes:

Brussels Capital Region

English version: https://en.actionbound.com/bound/aTreeAwakeningBrusselsCapitalRegion

Dutch version: https://en.actionbound.com/bound/Bomen-Brussels

French version: https://en.actionbound.com/bound/Arbres-Bruxelles

Barcelona Metropolitan Area

English version: https://en.actionbound.com/bound/ATreeAwakeningBarcelonaMetropolitanArea

Catalan version:https://en.actionbound.com/bound/Arbres-AMB

Spanish version: https://actionbound.com/bound/Arboles-AMB

City of Ljubljana

English version: https://en.actionbound.com/bound/aTreeAwakeningCityOfLjubljana

Slovenian version: https://en.actionbound.com/bound/drevesaMestnaObcinaLjubljana

Further contact: clive.davies@efi.int

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