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Urban forestry, Green infrastructure

Posted on | February 8, 2015 | Comments Off

WG21 – Urban forestry, Green infrastructure

Cities are ecosystems: they are open and dynamic systems that utilize, transform and release material and energy. Cities develop and adapt as they interact with human beings and with other ecosystems. Therefore, they must be managed and protected like any other ecosystem. This need, and for the inclusion of community rights in territorial and landscape policies has resulted in the concept of “green infrastructure”, i.e. an interconnected network of green spaces that conserves natural ecosystem values and functions and provides associated benefits to human populations.

In Europe, a multi-scale planning approach is emerging, ranging from local community level to regional, national and international platforms. The European Green Belt, the Pan-European Ecological Network and the European Green Infrastructure Strategy, launched in 2013, are good examples of an integrated series of directives, tools and actions oriented to implement multiple planning strategies and national/local actions on green infrastructure, especially urban forests. The European Green Infrastructure Strategy states that green infrastructure serves the interests of both people and nature. This definition completely reverses the urban-centric vision of the 20th century, by assuming that human activities and cities are hosted in nature and not the opposite.

The implications of this emerging vision are crucial in scientific and policy terms, and for all the disciplines dealing with the elements of green infrastructure, particularly for urban and periurban forestry, agroforestry and agriculture.

Urban agriculture is already recognized by citizens and local authorities as a strategic approach to combine a mosaic of green spaces in and around cities, contributing to the stabilization of migrant societies from rural areas, establishing natural ecosystems in cities and providing highly competitive markets close to consumers. The existing stakeholder platforms around this discipline offer a basis through which to incorporate trees, agroforestry and forests, which are critical elements of green infrastructure, in integrated land use, enabling urban and peri-urban forestry to make a direct economic contribution in terms of jobs and income generation, as well as institutional savings.

There is still a need, however, to discuss means and modalities for breaking the barriers between the different disciplines and ensure that there is full integration between the different elements that compose the green infrastructure of cities and in the interconnected urban-rural socio-ecosystem. Any framework for action should encompass both planning and management levels and aim to identify viable actions that can be adopted and implemented by the different stakeholders in the public and private sector.


Simone Borelli, FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Italy
Fabio Salbitano, University of Florence, Italy
Giovanni Sanesi, University of Bari, Italy
Makiko Taguch, FAO
Guido Santini, FAO


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