Forestry Communication Toolkit
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than 50% of the world’s population lives urban areas, and this percentage is expected to swell to 70% by 2050. Particularly in lower- and middle-income countries, this rapid urbanization process has been translated into depletion of natural resources, outpacing the capacity of most urban settlements to provide dwellers with services and goods essential for their livelihood.
Well-planned and managed tree and forest resources in and around cities can play a key role in responding to the needs and threats posed by an increasing urban population. By providing ecosystem services, products and public benefits they can help facing local and global challenges, thus contributing to make cities economically, socially and environmentally more sustainable and resilient. In particular, they can:
Improve human health and well-being
Properly designed and managed urban and peri-urban forests and other green spaces can play an important role in ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being through diseases prevention and faster recovery from illness.
Contribute to mitigate/adapt to the effects of climate change
Forests in and around urban areas can contribute to climate-change mitigation, both directly by sequestering carbon and indirectly by helping saving energy for cooling and heating, thus contributing to reduce the urban heat island effect.
Protect biodiversity and landscapes
If well-managed and protected, urban forests can contribute to halt the loss of biodiversity, reduce the degradation of natural habitats and prevent the extinction of threatened species, thus ensuring the provision of ecosystem services to cities and the preservation of natural landscapes.
Provide economic benefits and foster green economy
Urban and peri-urban forests provide many economic benefits - including through green branding and marketing strategies - which help cities build dynamic, energetic and prosperous green economies.
Mitigate land and soil degradation
By protecting soils and increasing their fertility, urban and peri-urban forests help combat desertification, restore degraded soils and lands, prevent drought and floods and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.
Protect and regulate water and watersheds
By protecting watersheds, filtering waters and increasing soil permeability, urban and peri-urban forests can greatly contribute to a successful and sustainable urban and peri-urban water and watershed management.
Increase food and nutrition security
By providing food, woodfuel for cooking, and non-food products to be sold on markets, urban and peri-urban forests can contribute significantly to food and nutrition security in urban and peri-urban environments.
Enhance wood security
By providing additional sources of wood and wood-fuel, urban and peri-urban forests can play a key role in responding to urban needs in terms of wood provision while contributing to protect natural forests and woodlands from depletion and over-exploitation.
Maintain and enhance socio-cultural values
The protection of the urban and peri-urban forests can help communities maintain cultural identities across generations, provide dwellers with community spaces where to socialize and decrease the gap between rich and poor neighbourhoods.
To minimize the risks associated with urban and peri-urban forests and maximize their benefits, urban forestry risk management should be fully integrated into urban planning and management, emergency response protocols and public education programmes.
Residents often mention tree loss as one of the greatest impacts of storms – including more than 30 percent of residents in the wake of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 (Miller, Hauer and Werner, 2015).
Studies in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland estimate that there is a one in ten million chance of an individual being killed by a falling tree (or part of a tree) in any given year (Watt and Ball, 2009).
FAO Forestry also recommends: