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Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Toolbox

Urban and Peri-Urban Forestry

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. 

What is urban and peri-urban forestry?

Urban and peri-urban forestry is an integrated, interdisciplinary, participatory and strategic approach to planning and managing forest and tree resources in and around cities. It involves the assessment, planning, planting, maintenance, preservation and monitoring of urban and peri-urban forest and tree resources and can operate at scales ranging from single trees to landscapes and ecosystems. The scope of urban and peri-urban forestry encompasses the entire development spectrum – from sprawling, spontaneously growing metropolises to highly planned urban development projects. 

Why is urban and peri-urban forestry important?

In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lived in cities and towns. Today, 54 percent of the global population is urban, and this proportion is expected to increase to 66 percent by 2050.Poorly planned urban growth is likely to result in an increased “heat island” effect (see In more depth), air pollution, soil degradation and public health issues. Maintaining sufficient healthy and safe food, clean water, clean air, energy, housing and green spaces in urban areas is a major challenge. In the absence of integrated land-use planning and sustainable urban development strategies, rapid urbanization can damage forest and tree resources, thus reducing their contribution to the development of sustainable cities. On the other hand, healthy and sustainably managed urban and peri-urban forests can increase the health and resilience of cities in the face of changing and increasingly challenging economic, social and physical environments.

The benefits of urban and peri-urban forestry

The benefits of urban and peri-urban forestry

Urban and peri-urban forestry has many potential benefits, which vary in nature and importance depending on the location and economic, social and environmental circumstances of a given urban/peri-urban complex. For example, the sustainable production of woodfuel may be of considerable importance in a rapidly expanding urban area in a developing country, whereas the provision of recreational opportunities may be afforded higher priority in cities with developed economies. The benefits derived from urban and peri-urban forestry are also likely to vary in different areas of the same urban/peri-urban complex and among socioeconomic groups. 

Urban issues

Potential benefits of urban and peri-urban forestry

  • Food security
  • Urban poverty
  • Soil and landscape degradation 
  • Reduced biodiversity
  • Air and noise pollution
  • Greenhouse-gas emissions
  • Extreme weather events
  • Energy shortage
  • Heat island effect
  • Limited accessible green space
  • Public health
  • Stormwater runoff
  • Limited recreation opportunities
  • Exposure
  • Limited water resources
  • Provide food, clean water and woodfuel
  • Create jobs and increase income
  • Improve soil conditions and prevent erosion
  • Preserve and increase biodiversity
  • Remove air pollutants and buffer noise
  • Sequester carbon and mitigate climate change
  • Build resilience
  • Save energy and grow woodfuel
  • Provide shade
  • Provide more accessible green space
  • Improve physical and mental health of residents
  • Mitigate stormwater runoff and reduce flooding
  • Provide opportunities for recreation and environmental education
  • Provide shelter
  • Reuse wastewater

Management of urban and peri-urban forests

Management of urban and peri-urban forests

An integrated urban and peri-urban forest management plan analyses the current situation, identifies potential challenges, and develops strategies to meet current and future needs. It seeks to reduce risks and costs and to manage urban and peri-urban trees and forests to maintain and increase the provision of goods and environmental services. One size does not fit all: each urban and peri-urban area has its own unique and constantly evolving economic, social and environmental conditions. The priorities and foci of urban and peri-urban forestry are likely to vary in different situations, and they should be derived through consultation and teamwork among multiple stakeholders – such as urban foresters, arborists, forest policymakers and decision-makers, urban planners, health and safety professionals, landowners and local communities. Communication and collaboration play key roles in raising awareness about urban and peri-urban forestry and supporting the development and implementation of an urban and peri-urban forest management plan.