19-10-2020 / hannes.schwaiger

Urban Forests as Nature-based Solutions – a new role for urban forests and urban trees

Guest article by Rik De Vreese, EFI

The CLEARING HOUSE project gathers 26 partners in Europe and China, and will provide evidence and tools that facilitate the mobilisation of the full potential of urban forests as nature-based solutions (UF-NBS) for rehabilitating, reconnecting and restoring urban ecosystems.

The CLEARING HOUSE project – sister project to REGREEN – addresses a global challenge that unites European and Chinese cities in their quest to develop more resilient cities and liveable societies in order to improve human wellbeing. The project is focussing on implementing urban forests and urban trees as providers of nature-based solutions in and around cities. Trees are traditional elements in the urban landscape, but their merits are underestimated and undervalued. Trees and forests are also contested – on the one hand citizens complain about dangers, threats and nuisances related to forests and trees, on the other hand, cutting or managing trees and forests regularly result in negative comments by the public.

CLEARING HOUSE looks into the new role of urban forests and trees, looking beyond traditional lenses of recreation and aesthetics (for urban trees and urban parks), and recreation and wood production (for urban and peri-urban forests). The new role of trees relates to other ecosystem services such as mitigating climate extremes, improving air quality, and providing spaces for mental restoration. Combined, these benefits provided by nature facilitate a more sustainable city.

CLEARING HOUSE will analyse and develop the potential of NBS in general, and UF-NBS in particular – across China and Europe – in order to enhance the resilience of cities facing major ecological, socio-economic, and human wellbeing challenges. Further, the project will review existing knowledge on tree-based Nature-based Solutions, will carry out case studies in 5 European urban regions (Barcelona, Brussels, Gelsenkirchen, Krakow & Leipzig-Halle) and 5 Chinese urban regions (Beijing, Hangzhou, Hong-Kong/Guangzhou/Shenzhen, Huaibei, Xiamen).

© Clive Davies

Finally, CLEARING HOUSE will facilitate learning within and between Europe and China, through calls for collaborative knowledge exchange. The project will develop tools and guidance that supports planners, decision-makers and managers of natural resources in and around cities for cost-effectively planning, governing and managing urban forests and urban trees for enhancing urban resilience and human wellbeing.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement n°821242. Several Chinese CLEARING HOUSE partners have also contributed to the funding. Also CAF-RIF and NFGRA contributed to the funding of the project.