Urban forest - a green oasis for everyday life

What does the urban forest mean for the population? How does it contribute to improving people's quality of life? What are the challenges and threats to our urban forests? What happens if we do nothing to protect them?

Birdsong, fresh air, a calming environment - for people living in today's urbanised world, green oases in the urban jungle are a real source of recharge, relaxation and healthy activity. Thousands of people go outdoors every weekend, even after a tiring day, and it is no coincidence that the number of forest hikes in Hungary is estimated to reach 40-50 million in 2023.

The importance of urban forests, i.e. forests located in and around cities, is that, in addition to improving the quality of life of residents by reducing stress and improving well-being through walking, running or relaxing in green spaces, they are also the most important natural means of local climate protection in cities. They are the most effective biological carbon sequestration infrastructure, they influence nature's water balance, including reducing the impact of damaging winds, they sequester dust - improving air quality, reducing temperatures, sustaining the water cycle, and forests filter and purify water.

However, a worrying trend seems to be emerging: climate change is having a number of negative impacts on forests, including urban forests. In addition, urban forests usually have to cope with adverse conditions, climate change and the pressures of human civilisation in a smaller stand, surrounded by the built environment: one of the major challenges of forest management in the 21st century is to prepare forests for climate change and to cope with human presence. Without appropriate intervention, future generations will enjoy a fraction of the forests we have today, and some predictions suggest that entire forest stands could disappear or be destroyed.

Modern forest science is working on a number of solutions to remedy or even halt this process. One professional approach is to transform urban forests gradually, step by step, replacing the tree species that make up the forest stand almost one by one with more drought-tolerant species that are more resistant to the effects of climate change. Digital technologies are also increasingly being used to monitor and track forest health and behaviour under extreme weather conditions, using sensors and ground or aerial sensing. Accurate mapping and monitoring of the functioning of urban forests, monitoring the constantly changing impacts they face in a specific urban environment, can form the basis of a forest management plan optimised for each urban forest, its specific conditions and functioning, as a solution to effectively prepare them for climate change.

To be continued…

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