Forests are key to urban growth

Forests will play a critical role in meeting the rising demand for water, food and energy that cities will face in the future, said senior UN officials on the International Day of Forests.

This year’s International Day of Forests, which is celebrated annually on 21 March, focused on the interlinkages between the sustainable management of forests and sustainable cities.

“Investing in forests is essential for securing a sustainable future for communities the world over,” said Manuoel Sobral Filho, director of the UN Forum of Forests Secretariat (UNFFS).

His sentiments were echoed by José Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who said that “well-managed forests and trees in and around cities provide habitats, food and protection for many plants and animals, helping to maintain and increase biodiversity”.

For instance, strategic placement of trees in urban areas can cool the air by between 2°C and 8°C, and trees placed properly around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30% and save energy used for heating by 20-50% – thus helping cities meet rising energy demands. Forests also play a critical role in filtering urban pollutants, storing carbon and reducing flooding and storm water runoff.

Forests are also critical to helping meet global water demands, particularly those in cities. According to UN estimates, more than half of the world’s population will face water stress by 2050, so safeguarding forest catchments – which currently provide three-quarters of all freshwater worldwide – is even more urgent.

The UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 envisions “a world in which all types of forests and trees outside forests are sustainably managed, contribute to sustainable development and provide economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits for present and future generations”.


Image credit: Tim Gorman via Flickr

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