What will the urban forest in 2100 look like? What will be the key issues, threats and opportunities facing urban green spaces? Answering these questions was the focus of a ‘horizon scanning’ workshop held in Lund, Sweden on 10 October 2018, the fourth in a series of workshops organised by the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes (CAUL) Hub, as part of the Urban Greening for Liveability and Biodiversity research project.
Changes to urban forests driven by climate change, demographic change and urbanisation processes have enormous implications for urban land managers and for our cities. There is currently little guidance to inform management specifics (such as in relation to plant selection, site amelioration) in a changing environment, to maintain and enhance provision of urban forests’ multifunctional benefits.
This Urban forest horizon scanning research aims to further the knowledge of the potential changes to species, resources and conditions facing future urban forests, through a horizon scanning exercise involving end-users and researchers from CAUL Hub and other institutions. This process canvasses a range of issues including changing climate, urban densification, demographic change, technological changes, water and waterways issues, biodiversity and human health and wellbeing. This project extends previous CAUL Hub research on climate change risks, particularly temperature vulnerabilities, to urban forest species. The workshop outcomes will contribute to improved understanding of the challenges facing urban forests in a changing environment, and inform research, policy and practitioner priorities to build capacity and effectiveness in urban forest management. ‘Urban forest’ is defined broadly: it includes trees, green spaces, gardens, urban ecological systems, and so on.
Key research priorities discussed across several groups and themes included:
- implications of virtual nature; comparison of benefits (social, mental and physical health) of real and virtual nature
- development of social and ecological indicators and baseline data
- global review of approaches to urban forest regulation and governance
- continued studies on climate change adaptation and mitigation, including the combined effect of different climate change parameters on tree growth and functionality, and empirical studies on species suitability
- approaches to community engagement
- transdisciplinary research approaches that include practitioners, or practice-oriented research
Key policy and management priorities included:
- integration in the planning process, to facilitate working across disciplines and siloes
- longer time perspectives in planning and management
- planning urban forests for access, quality and multifunctional use
- investment frameworks to co-create and finance for pluralistic needs and values
- public participation, inclusive governance structures and stewardship models that support and embrace multifunctional values; approaches to community engagement
These priorities can inform ongoing efforts in urban forest research and management, and provide tangible outcomes from the horizon scanning workshop.