Inner forests can be of many shapes and sizes: an abandoned and overgrown lot, an avenue lined with trees, a vast inner-city park, or a repurposed parking space that serves as a green ‘pocket park’. Inner forests can be wild and natural, manicured, or somewhere in between, and they can be found on public or private land. Each of these forms add to the mosaic of a city’s urban forests. Inner forests provide space for leisure and recreation activities, stabilize slopes and riverbanks, and absorb rainfall, thus reducing flooding.
Unfortunately, these varying types of inner forests don’t often reach their full potential. They are often fragmented, degraded, and shrinking. Because of busy human activity in cities, urban trees often experience difficult circumstances that compromise their growth and survival. Extreme heat, poor soil quality, drought, flooding, and limited space to grow challenge the survival of inner forests and increase their vulnerability to disease and insect infestation. City budgets are often insufficient to effectively manage inner forests and it is not always clear who holds responsibility for their maintenance. Residents are not always aware of the benefits trees provide, and they often see trees as a nuisance, expensive to maintain, dangerous, and damaging to public and private property.
Urban forests are often overlooked in development decisions and budget allocations, but given the many benefits they provide, cities should make inner forests part of their broader strategies to increase resilience to climate change, promote low carbon development, and advance city-wide sustainability efforts.
The good news is that cities around the world are recognizing the benefits of trees. Cities are taking actions to protect and expand their inner forests, to improve the quality of life of their residents, provide cost-effective services, and to mitigate and adapt to environmental challenges. Urban forests can regulate high temperatures during the summer, keeping cities cooler and residents more comfortable while reducing energy otherwise used for cooling. Inner forests support the water cycle, slowing and capturing stormwater and allowing rain to evaporate or percolate back into the soil. This process replenishes water tables, reduces the quantity of stormwater in drainage systems, and mitigates local flooding. The roots of inner forest trees stabilize soil and can prevent erosion and more serious events such as landslides.
Inner forests can improve the quality of life of city residents. Inner forests have been linked to improvements in physical and mental health, including increased physical activity, reduced stress, and lower blood pressure. Improved air quality is also believed to reduce cases of asthma, strokes, and heart disease. Furthermore, urban forests can bring communities together, strengthening ties and building social cohesion. Inner forests provide food and habitat for local wildlife, preserving and increasing biodiversity within cities. Inner forests can also impact the local economy by increasing property values and even creating jobs in the care and management of urban trees.
However, even the most well-intentioned cities face challenges conserving, managing, and expanding their inner forests effectively and equally. Unequal access to green spaces exists in most cities, often leaving marginalized communities without the social, economic, and environmental benefits provided by nature.
What Cities4Forests offers
Cities4Forests is supporting its network of cities to better manage, protect and grow their urban forests.
1. Technical support & capacity development
Cities4Forests increases the capacity of city authorities through webinars, presentations, trainings, consultations, and in-depth technical support from experts. Opportunities exist to work locally and internationally on a range of topics including urban planning and policy, finance, and stakeholder engagement.
2. Evidence-based research, resources, & best-practice guidance
Cities4Forests provides cities with cutting-edge research, customized tools, and best practice guidance documents to support their efforts to manage, protect, and grow their inner forests more effectively. Set to launch in late 2020, our flagship publication – Better Forests, Better Cities – will synthesize current knowledge on the benefits provided by forests to cities and their residents, focusing on linkages between city-level initiatives and forests at the inner, nearby, and faraway scales.
3. Peer-to-peer learning & workshops
Cities4Forests is a growing network of cities, organizations, and technical experts that function as an interconnected support network that provides information and resources to its member cities. By joining the network cities gain access to each other’s knowledge through working groups, facilitated conversations, high-level exchanges, and thematic workshops where members share their experiences, lessons learned, and other insights.
4. Resident engagement & communication campaigns
The support of city residents and local businesses is key in creating enabling conditions to establish and expand urban forests on public and private property. Cities4Forests works with cities to build awareness through campaigns that connect residents with the forests in their cities.