The Urban Tree Festival 2020

11th March 2020

 

From 16th-24th May we took part in the third annual Urban Tree Festival, celebrating trees in London and beyond. In the current circumstances, the festival took place entirely online, which saw a huge, international audience tune in to learn all about urban trees.

We were delighted to curate and host a series of ‘Tree Rings’ webinars with leading experts covering a range of captivating topics. If you missed them, the recorded webinars are available to view on the Urban Tree Festival YouTube channel. Here are some of our key takings from these insightful sessions…

 

What is an urban tree?

Urban trees tend to be highly resilient and play a vital role in making our lives better. They can be found in a variety of locations, including streets, parks, urban orchards, gardens, urban woodlands and cemeteries.

Did you know that London is home to over 15,000 species of tree? Just look around (and up!) and you will see the diverse network of trees and woodland that we have on our doorstep.

Among London’s most common street trees are the Whitebeam and London Planes, as well as the more modern, exotic trees, such as the American Sweetgum, Persian Ironwood, Trident Maple and many more.

 

What are the benefits of trees in an urban environment?

The short answer is, there are many. The existence and diversity of urban trees is invaluable to our cityscapes. They have huge environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits that we have a duty to secure for future generations.

Urban trees are integral to stabilising and enhancing our natural environment. They provide ‘ecosystem’ services such as pollution absorption, air cooling, and help manage water run-off and flooding. All of which helps counter the damaging effects of climate change.

Trees and woodland act as hosts for other species, such as fungi, invertebrates, lichens, birds, bats and other animals. Interaction between species produces invaluable natural services that we rely on, such pollination.

Socially speaking, urban trees play a huge part in our neighbourhoods. Urban trees are natural landmarks and treasured members of the community that provide a great sense of history and continuity.

Evidence shows that contact with trees, woodlands and green spaces in general, have therapeutic and restorative effects on both the mind and body. During the COVID-19 pandemic many Londoners are finding comfort in the beauty of our natural surroundings.

 

What challenges do urban trees face?

Trees are living and breathing organisms that need space, water, light and nutrients to survive, and these needs alter over time. Urban trees come up against many human and environmental threats, including climate change, development pressure, intensification of land use, pests and disease.

Urban trees offer a unique set of services, opportunities and challenges, and they should be carefully considered as a critical part of London’s green infrastructure.

 

What action is being taken to protect and nurture urban trees?

We are encouraged to hear about commitments to plant another 2 million trees by 2025. We are calling for at least a 20% increase in canopy cover by 2050 in our shared manifesto for the next Mayor of London A More Natural Capital. While more planting is essential, the successful establishment of trees, through smart planting and management, careful species selection, and investment in aftercare are key to their survival.

The Urban Tree Festival has been brilliant in demonstrating that research, collaboration and celebration is integral to helping London’s complex urban tree network to thrive.

Many are working hard to safeguard existing trees, promote new planting and educate our communities. If you’re interested in hearing more about how you can help protect and enhance urban trees, please visit – https://urbantreefestival.org/