Cities around the world have recognized the benefits of urban forests and green infrastructure and have started implementing ambitious plans to bringing nature back to cities.
Last month, the Madrid City Council has launched a tender for a 74km-long forest belt to be developed around the city’s perimeters.
“El Bosque Metropolitano” will allow almost half a million new trees to be planted, will improve air quality, decrease desertification and flood risks, support biodiversity, and act as a thermal regulator for the city as it will mitigate Madrid’s urban heat island. El Bosque Metropolitano is a long-term city project that will take about 12 years to complete. When this forest reaches maturity, it will absorb 170,000 tons of CO2.
100,000 of these trees will be indigenous, which allows for more efficient maintenance of the green areas as these plants are used to the local weather conditions and habitat.
Moreover, bringing native plants to cities and allowing the land to self-regulate has additional biodiversity benefits, as green areas immediately become more biodiverse compared to the currently widespread monoculture, highly controlled green spaces.
This urban forest plan is the continuation of Madrid’s ongoing strategy of bringing nature back to the city. In 2016, Madrid announced a plan to include as much greenery as possible in the city, including by creating urban gardens in all unused spaces and by covering roofs and facades with plants.
The forest will stretch along a 75km environmental belt around Madrid’s perimeters with new parks, children’s zones, dog trails and hiking and biking routes for city-dwellers and tourists. The first trees will be planted in October and will include native species such as wild olive trees, strawberry trees, willow, ash, elm, as well as gorse, rosemary, thyme and juniper and other bushes and shrubs. It’s part of a plan known as Madrid 360º, a series of measures being introduced by the city’s government to improve air quality within the capital and meet the emission limits imposed by the European Commission.
Cover picture: Parque del Buen Retiro ©Gilles Gaonach/Shutterstock https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/el-bosque-metropolitano