URBAN REGENERATION - native habitat, urban forest, urban farming, street swales

Image: Paddington Reservoir Gardens image courtesy of Fifth Creek Studios

There is an international movement towards the regeneration of urban landscapes due to an increased awareness about human impact on the environment. As urban development and populations increase there is a greater demand to improve upon the planning mistakes of the past. There is a movement towards mitigating the impact of impermeable urban infrastructure materials such as concrete by including permeable pedestrian paths, bio-swales, street planting, green roofs, green walls, rejuvenated wetlands, urban forests, parklands and other vegetative systems into the urban fabric.

In Sydney, Australia the proposed 2000 Olympic site was an urban wasteland with high toxicity levels throughout the soil profiles and natural waterways. The regeneration of the site during and after the project development has created a renewed, sustainable and healthy ecologically balanced environment alongside a popular recreational venue. Sheffield, United Kingdom was an industrial wasteland due to a century of industrial pollution and environmental neglect. Due to concerted efforts by the local planning authority, the University of Sheffield and local community groups, Sheffield is now the greenest city in the UK due to urban regeneration with green roofs, urban forests, community gardens and changes in planning policy.

Urban forestry is the careful care and management of urban forests, i.e., tree populations in urban settings for the purpose of improving the urban environment. Urban forestry advocates the role of trees as a critical part of the urban infrastructure. Urban foresters plant and maintain trees, support appropriate tree and forest preservation, conduct research and promote the many benefits trees provide. Urban forestry is practiced by municipal and commercial arborists, municipal and utility foresters, environmental policymakers, city planners, consultants, educators, researchers and community activists. Function, the dynamic operation of the forest, includes biochemical cycles, gas exchange, primary productivity, competition, succession, and regeneration. In urban environments, forest functions are frequently related to the human environment. Urban forests bring many environmental and economic benefits to cities. Among these are energy benefits in the form of reduced air conditioning, reduced heating by shading buildings, homes and roads, absorbing sunlight, reducing ultraviolet light, cooling the air, and reducing wind speed. Trees located in business areas may also increase worker productivity, recruitment, retention and satisfaction (Kaplan & Kaplan 1989; Kaplan 1992; Wolf 1998). Urban forests also improve air quality, absorb rainwater, improve biodiversity and potentially allow recycling to 20% of waste which is wood-based.

The social and even medical benefits of nature are also dramatic. Urban poverty is common to areas lacking green spaces. Visiting green areas in cities can counteract the stress of city life, renew vital energy and restore attention, and improve medical outcomes. Simply being able to see a natural view out of the window improves self discipline in inner city girls.