Forests in the Urbanocene

The Seminar will focus on the following key topics:

  • Holistic views on the future of cities and their role in leading sustainable change
  • Urban forests and trees in cities: environmental, social and human wellbeing
  • Wood based solutions for sustainable cities
  • Forests and forestry in the rural-urban interface
  • Challenges and opportunities in building a forest narrative for urbanised societies


For the first time in human history, globally, we have more people living in cities than in rural areas. Cities already account for more than 80% of global economic output, consume close to two-thirds of the world’s energy, and account for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Every day our cities add around two hundred thousand people more, which explains that by 2050 more than two thirds of the global population will live in urban areas. Rural out-migration to urban areas and the urbanisation of lifestyles also beyond city borders is happening at record speed and on a scale the world has never experienced before, giving birth to what some scientists start calling the era of Urbanocene. This also means that cities represent at the same time our greatest challenges but also the greatest opportunities to transform our existing non-sustainable fossil based economy system towards a new economic paradigm where prosperity takes place within the renewable boundaries of our planet.  Such a new economic paradigm needs therefore to be based on the sustainable use of renewable energy but also renewable materials. It also needs to urgently address the past failure of our economy to value nature and recognise our natural capital as basis for economic prosperity. This require a new and synergistic relationship between economy and biology, as well as new and fair partnerships connecting rural and urban areas.

In this context, forests, forestry and forest based solutions have immense potential to become a key pillar for sustainable and resilient cities as well as key for connecting rural and urban areas through green infrastructures, the full spectrum of ecosystem services they can provide for urban societies, and sustainable value chains. The use of trees and forests in urban areas does not only support human health and wellbeing and are critical for urban biodiversity. They also reduce the energy needs for cooling and heating in buildings as well as the urban heat island effect. In addition, wood based solutions are key to replace in urban areas, non-renewable materials like plastics, steel or concrete by renewable bio-based solutions that reduce the urban carbon foot print.


9.00 Opening
  Moderators: Gesche Schifferdecker, EFI
  Ashok Sridrahan, Mayor, City of Bonn and President of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI)

Representatives of local host organisation

  Marc Palahí, EFI
9.30-10.30 Session I  – The age of cities: understanding challenges and ways forward
  Chair: Marc Palahí, EFI
  How laws of physics govern growth in cities
  Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute
  Biocities for a living economy and self-sufficient cities
  Vicente Guallart, Guallart Architects

Cities, nature and health

10.30 Coffee break
11.00 Session II  – Forests and forest-based solutions for sustainable cities
  Chair:  Elena Paoletti, Professor, Italian Society of Silviculture and Forest Ecology
11.00 Urban forestry and its impacts on people: a global perspective
  Cecil C. Konijnendijk,University of British Columbia
11.20 Advantages and future prospects of wood construction for sustainable cities
  Michael H. Ramage, Cambridge University and Founding Partner of Light Earth Designs
11.40 The impacts of urban forests on the city environment: what do we know?
  Dagmar Haase, Humboldt University, Berlin
12.00 How city’s policy makers can support the biocities

Janna Puumalainen, Development Director, City of Joensuu

12.20 Discussion

Concluding remarks of morning sessions

13.00 Lunch break, including a presentation with posters of Clearing House
14.30 Session III  – Integrated forest management in urbanising societies - a central European perspective
  Chair: Georg Winkel, EFI
14.00 Integrated forest management/multifunctional forestry
14.20 Forest policy and planning in urbanised societies
14.40 Climate change adaptation
15.00 Panel discussion
16.30 Closing conclusions