Urban and peri-urban forestry

Urban and peri-urban forestry (UPF) is the practice of managing forests, groups of trees and individual trees in and around urban areas in order to maximize their economic, livelihood, social, cultural, environmental and biodiversity values. UPF can serve a range of purposes and thus takes many forms, covering natural and planted forests and trees, forests maintained in watersheds or in drylands, forests and wooded areas, green spaces and street trees, as well as trees in urban/peri-urban gardens.

“For the first time, more than half the world's population live in cities and towns. By extension, urban and peri-urban forestry is becoming the window through which people make judgements about all the worlds’ trees and forests. We must ensure that cities, trees and forests grow together to meet the needs of urbanized societies and to convey the importance of all forests to life on our planet”.
– Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director-General and Head of the Forestry Department, FAO, Rome, November 2010

Sydney, Australia.©FAO/F. Salbitano


A Glance of Urban Forestry in Sweden

Jonkoping, Sweden.©FAO/Y.Chen

Thanks to the joint efforts of the Swedish Forest Agency and FAO, Ms Yujuan Chen (Junior Professional Officer of Urban and Peri-urban Forestry) was able to visit the Swedish Forest Agency headquarters in Jonkoping and the district office in Gothenburg in August, 2015. We would like to know what she has learned about urban forestry in Sweden during her trip.

Q1: What is your first impression about urban and peri-urban forestry in Sweden?

A1: I was very impressed by how green Sweden is. According to FRA 2015, about 70% of its land is covered by forests. The most important thing is that citizens have the right to utilize and enjoy these resources regardless of whether they are publicly or privately owned. For example, everyone can access forests to pick berries, collect mushrooms, walk and hike, and camp (only one night at the same place). In Jonkoping, I visited Vattenledningsparken, an urban park owned by Jonkoping municipality that is not far from the city center. It is a great recreational area for urban dwellers to connect with nature and enjoy quality time with family and friends (e.g., walking, hiking, exercising, fishing, picnicking, or relaxing). In Gothenburg, I visited a peri-urban forest owned by the city of Gothenburg that is very close to some residential areas. Urban dwellers can go there for walking, collecting mushrooms, or picking berries. At the same time, it is being managed for timber production and I found it was a good example of the balance between goods production and environmental service provision.

Q2: Can you share something you learned about social forestry, especially stakeholder involvement in forestry management in Sweden?

A2: In general, the focus of forest management in Sweden has changed over time based on society’s needs. Production has been the main focus from the very beginning; then environmental aspects were added; recently, social aspects have also become an important consideration. Concerning stakeholder involvement in forest management, definitely there are many things that we can learn from Sweden. At the national level, the National Forest Sector Council is a good example of how to involve a wide range of stakeholders in the policy- and decision-making processes of forest management. Involved stakeholders include governmental agencies, research institutes, forest companies, NGOs, farmers associations, and private sectors. At the regional level, three Regional Forest Sector Councils were set up to involve stakeholders. At the local level, municipalities work very closely with their citizens. For example, municipalities will post notifications about any changes/modifications related to forest management and citizens have access to the information and can provide their feedback. Feedback is duly considered in the development of the forest management plan. In one word, the key for successful stakeholder involvement is transparency.

Q3: Is there anything that you want to highlight about your trip?

A3: I guess there are many things that I could list here, but I was really impressed by how much work Sweden has done and how advanced they are on the relationship between forests and human health. One unique thing about urban and peri-urban forestry is that it is not only about forests and trees but also about people. As Dr Dan Rydberg (an urban forestry expert working with the Swedish Forest Agency) said, the value of an urban and peri-urban forest is the result of its accessibility, quality, and usage. In Sweden, it is a tradition to walk in forests simply because people love forests. During my visit, I had chance to visit a green rehabilitation center- Gröna Rehab - which represents a success story of how we can utilize green infrastructure to improve human health, both physically and mentally. Walking in the forest is one of their effective green approaches for rehabilitation. During the walk, participants have the opportunity to experience nature and interact with others.

Jonkoping, Sweden.©FAO/Y.Chen

Gothenburg, Sweden.©FAO/Y.Chen

Jonkoping, Sweden.©FAO/Y.Chen

In summary, it was a very fruitful trip and I learned a lot about urban and peri-urban forestry in Sweden. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Swedish Forest Agency, especially Mr Bjorn Merkell and Dr Dan Rydberg for their strong support and excellent arrangements for my visit. I would also like to extend my thanks to Mr Erik Sollander, Mr Anders Strandh, Dr Berit Svanqvist, Dr Eva-lena Larsson, and Mr Xavier de Maupeou for sharing their knowledge and expertise. In the future, I think it would be great if we can strengthen the cooperation between Sweden and FAO on urban and peri-urban forestry matters.

Jonkoping, Sweden.©FAO/Y.Chen

Jonkoping, Sweden.©FAO/Y.Chen

Gothenburg, Sweden.©FAO/Y.Chen

SFM Toolbox Urban and Peri-Urban Forestry (UPF) Module is now available online

The aim of this module is to assist forest managers, forest policymakers and decision-makers, urban planners, urban foresters, arborists, private landowners and other stakeholders in assessing, planning and sustainably managing trees and forests in and around cities. The module presents common issues and challenges associated with urban and peri-urban forestry and provides strategies and tools for addressing these challenges, as well as for sustainably managing urban and peri-urban forest and tree resources. It includes case studies from a range of cities, countries and regions. This module includes the following components: 1) Basic knowledge; 2) In more depth; 3) Tools; 4) Cases; and 5) Further learning.

last updated:  Wednesday, October 7, 2015