La Vanguardia – the most read online Spanish newspaper – features the paramount role of urban forests in their lifestyle magazine. Research demonstrates that trees and forests dampen noise in cities, filter atmospheric pollutants, protect water sources, prevent soil erosion and create a pleasant micro-climate. Trees also offer great aesthetic pleasure and have positive impacts on public health – physical, psychological and emotional.
According to Marc Palahí, director of the European Forest Institute (EFI): “Nowadays, science is not only demonstrating that these positive impacts exist, but that they are of a much greater intensity than we might have thought, for example, in the increase in life expectancy… The stress reduction that nature brings, as well as the stimulation of social interaction and physical activity, are responsible for these benefits. As we become more aware of this reality, the urban forest will play a greater role in the way we design and live in the city.”
But are we ready to manage the urban forest? Dr Palahí considers that there is already more than enough knowledge: “What is really important is the political will to make space for urban forests and to re-naturalise our cities by setting and meeting ambitious targets. Cecil Konijnendijk, a leading expert on urban forests, proposes the 3-30-300 rule as a minimum target for every city. It means having 3 trees per household, 30% tree cover in every neighbourhood and a maximum distance of 300 metres between any household and a green wooded area of at least 1 ha (football field).”
EFI stimulates and acknowledges cities that are willing to take the lead in the transformation to more sustainable, resilient and healthy cities by granting the title of “European Forest City” to the city which hosts the EFI Annual Conference. Barcelona will be the European Forest City 2022.