Conservation and Biodiversity

Urban forests fight climate change and restore biodiversity

With the world slowly inching outside, it’s a good time to take stock of the nature around us. 

The outdoors can act as a lifeline during stressful times like these — reducing blood pressure, relieving stress and strengthening the immune system. A recent report from the Trust for Public Land recently emphasized the importance of access to parks during a pandemic (and at all times). 

But it can be tough to get outside if you live in a city with little to no green spaces. 

Urban forests address both the climate and biodiversity crises. When properly planned, these trees connect urban biodiversity to surrounding forests and ecosystems. Trees also help cities beat summer heat, manage stormwater runoff and erosion and reduce urban air pollution

Cities play a huge role in planting these trees that mitigate climate change and restore biodiversity. After the pandemic, cities’ green recovery strategies — including integration of urban forests and green infrastructure — will be essential for survival. 

To help local leaders get started, Cities4Forests, an organization set up to help cities integrate forests into their development plans, compiled a comprehensive set of resources. More than 60 cities around the world have joined the initiative. 

“We believe that we can create greater connections between forests and cities to protect and restore nature so that different species and cultures can thrive together,” said Stuart Reigeluth, co-founder of Cities4Forests.

To guarantee equitable access to parks and green spaces, cities still have some work to do. In many cases, low-income and marginalized communities have less access to green spaces, an issue exacerbated by fewer public transportation options during the pandemic. In all cases, efforts to restore or create urban forests must be backed by public engagement and support. 

To garner this support and help people connect with the forests around them, on Earth Day 2020, Cities4Forests launched the #ForestChallenge photo contest, in partnership with Earth Day Network. 

“The #ForestChallenge aims to raise awareness about the tremendous value of forests and our inherent link to nature,” said Reigeluth.

To participate, upload a picture of yourself, your family or friends with a tree or forest to Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #ForestChallenge. If your city is a Cities4Forests member city, tag your location so that your city has the chance to win the prize for most submissions. The competition runs through June 15, and each submission means one tree planted. 

Earth Day Network just announced its 2021 Earth Day theme: Restore Our Earth. Next year also marks the start of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. For long-term action, support Earth Day Network’s reforestation campaign, The Canopy Project.