by Vera Knill and Clive Davies

Did you know that urban trees and forests provide vital infrastructure for healthy and happy citizens? Are you aware that they are protecting and enhancing biodiversity and co-creating a climate-adapted built environment?

Three recently awarded ‘Tree Cities of the World’; City of Ljubljana, Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) and Brussels Capital Region are taking the lead on promoting the crucial role of urban trees towards greener and more resilient cities and urban regions. The three cities and regions differ in character but have demonstrated a commitment to urban trees within the framework of urban forestry, green infrastructure and the enhancement of local ecosystem services. 

The  European Forum on Urban Forestry (EFUF), European Forest Institute (EFI) and CLEARING HOUSE project brought together these three cities and regions in a ‘’tree awakening’ event on 11 June to kick-off an activity – focus – celebration of trees and to build and strengthen existing relationships across Europe. Practitioners, researchers, policymakers, journalists and citizens explored ways to work together towards a greener and more resilient future in cities.

The event resulted in a Call for Action, urging citizens and local leaders and decision-makers across urban regions in Europe to be inspired and step up towards recognizing, building awareness, communicating and taking ownership of the benefits of urban trees for all living beings in a city.

  • It’s not just planting but caring: There’s much more to enhancing urban green then just planting trees – caring for, respecting, and ensuring a long lifetime of an urban tree is crucial to ensure it develops its ecosystem potential. However, urban tree care remains a great challenge for those managing urban regions.
  • Caring for life – from seed to soil: Brought up in nurseries, going through adolescence and calling for pruning from time to time, dispersing seeds and finally returning back to the soil. A tree’s life is not that different from ours – and calls for a lifetime of care.
  • Trees – you get more than you see: Green space planning needs to focus on the benefits of trees both individually and when growing together. Considering trees as an ecological umbrella covering an urban region is fundamental to understanding their overall benefit to society.
  • Big Trees Matter: Urban regions need veteran trees as these provide the most ecosystem services and are the most important to people. Even though planting new trees is important the loss of a mature tree before its lifetime is over takes generations to recover.

Chris Baines, environmental campaigner, award-winning writer and broadcaster who opened the event said: “Mature trees have been breathing life into our towns and cities for centuries. Now, in the face of climate change, increasingly extreme weather patterns, relentless development pressure and stressful urban living, the moderating role they play is more important than ever.”

The ‘tree awakening’ opened an inspiring and positive discourse about the manifold benefits and challenges of managing trees in urban regions without dodging difficult questions. The insights and discussions serve as an impulse and starting point to awake consciousness and activate decision-makers to take practical action on transforming concrete jungles towards liveable shared spaces with multifunctional, interconnected and open, accessible green spaces for all.

As part of the ‘tree awakening’ self-guided tree discovery walks have been created for the City of Ljubljana, the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) and the Brussels Capital Region. These walks are designed to help the public explore the trees in these areas, whether as residents in-situ, virtual or actual visitors.

The self-guided tree discovery walks are presented through the ActionBound app and are intended as an inspiration to other urban regions to produce further walks. You can download the app by clicking on this link or scanning the QR-Code:

Access the ActionBounds clicking on the links below

Brussels Capital Region

Barcelona Metropolitan Area

City of Ljubljana

Watch the full recording of the tree awakening.

Photo: ©artjazz –


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