Session 5

URBAN AND PERIURBAN FORESTS AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

Session Coordinators: Fabio SALBITANO (Università di Firenze), Elena PAOLETTI (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche), Raffaele LAFORTEZZA (Università di Bari)

The importance of the ecosystem services provided by urban and peri-urban forests and trees and by the green infrastructure components related to the cities is clearly increasing in the last decades both for decision makers and planners as well as in the public opinion and civil society. The demand for ecosystem services continues to grow in parallel with the urban population but inversely proportional to the quality of life and environment afflicting the urban communities. According to ISTAT (Italian agency for national statistics), in 2015 the urban population represents the 71% of the entire national population while the area occupied by the most densely populated centers constitutes the 3.3% of the national land area, even if, in the last decades, the urbanized area grew by 30%. The growths has mainly affected the satellite towns of metropolitan regions instead of the core city centers. Urban densification, affecting other European contexts was replaced, in Italy, by a rapid soil sealing in fringe zones severely affecting peri-urban environments. According to ISTAT, each Italian citizen can count on 27 m2 of “green” and 92% of these green areas is represented by trees and woodlands.

An urgent issue, as highlighted in the documents of the New Urban Agenda of the United Nations, concerns the governance, planning, design and management of the urban-rural interface, i.e. the transition zone, ultimately, traditionally devoted to the provision of ecosystem services. Foresters, as applied ecologists, face challenges that require innovative perspectives and solutions in all fields of forest and environmental knowledge. Spatial planning strategies based on green infrastructures as well as design and management approaches addressed to nature based solutions are under adoption and determine the need for a robust scientific and technical background. This session welcomes the latest developments in knowledge on the ecological aspects (e.g. regulation of the microclimate, improvement of air quality, enhancement of biodiversity, control of water cycle and soil erosion), the social implications (health, recreation, tourism, aesthetics) and the economic components of management (e.g. place making and keeping, site preparation, planting, maintenance, monitoring) of urban and peri-urban forests. The session aims, ultimately, to: (1) understand and highlight the key role of urban and peri-urban forests and trees as driving green infrastructure components for the urban society, (2) identify priorities for scientists, decision-makers, and (3) encourage long-term planning that maximizes ecosystem services and minimizes environmental disservices (e.g. pollen allergenicity, safety, emission of volatile organic compounds), and so successfully tackling the challenges of urbanization and climate change.