Speakers Interview - Part 2

IUFC 2018 Speakers Interview - Part 2

September 12, 2018 - Continue reading our speakers interview with Ian Shears, Chris Baines, Susan Day and Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz.

IUFC 2018 keynote speaker - Ian Shears  

IUFC 2018 keynote speaker Chris Baines   IUFC 2018 keynote speaker Susan Day   IUFC 2018 invited speaker Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz
Ian Shears Chris Baines Susan Day Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz


What is the biggest challenge facing urban forestry in 2018? Is it different internationally?

Ian Shears: A lack of understanding of the fundamentally important role of the urban forest in the provision of natural ecosystem processes. Urbanization and development result in the depletion and degradation of vital natural ecosystems and services and urban forestry will be needed to strengthen urban forest ecosystem services and thus urban qualities.

Climate change will place increasing pressures on trees and other green elements.  Trees in particular are highly vulnerable to increasing temperatures so many species currently grown may not remain viable into the future.  Species selection for future climates is incredibly important.

Temporal mismatch between financial years, political terms, stewardship roles and the long-term decisions we need to make to ensure a thriving future forest legacy.

Chris Baines: Three things conspire to challenge urban forestry today.  The first is the short-term perspective of politicians.  They struggle with commitment to a vision on a forest time scale.  The second is the preoccupation with “health and safety” which constantly exaggerates the threat from trees in towns.  I grew up in the industrial city of Sheffield, in the north of England.  In the past the local council took great pride in its urban forest, but now an unimaginative risk assessment has condemned a third of the city’s 30,000 mature street trees to catastrophic clear-felling.  The third problem is society’s collective determination to think in silos. 

As urban foresters we know that there are great benefits that can come from policies and practices that integrate health and well-being with soil and water conservation; education with sport and recreation; air quality improvement with nature conservation; economic renewal with public participation.  The urban forest can help to make the whole so much greater than the sum of its parts, but not while we think in silos.

Susan Day: Of course, there are significant biophysical challenges to urban forest sustainability such as climate change and land development. However, the biggest challenge in my mind is discovering and sharing solutions so we have better urban forests in the future. First, there has to be recognition of the complexity of the task of integrating natural resource systems like urban forests into the social and physical fabric of cities. Second, this task needs to be integrated into the way we “do business” in cities—an expected and valued part of the city. This requires both reaching out, and looking inward.


How do you see urban forestry evolving over the next 5 years?

Ian Shears: Cities around the world are embracing greening in many forms and across many scales and Urban Forestry as a profession will become increasingly important to meet the demands for ‘green’ professionals. We will see a broadening of the skills and competencies of urban forest professionals that will cover communication skills, public relations,  ecology, ecosystem services, social health, technologies and all forms of urban greening planning, design and management. We will need to see professionals that can transform policy into practice.

Chris Baines: Now, for the first time in history, more than half the people in the world live in towns and cities.  Urban green spaces are under ever increasing pressure, but they are also beginning to be recognised as vital to the quality of life.  The concept of “functional green infrastructure“ needs to become the underpinning principle of every village, town and city, and it needs to take root fast.

Susan Day: I see urban forestry really taking off if we embrace the full breadth of the field. Cities and towns are, more than ever, hungry for expertise to help them create and manage their urban forests for the benefit of society.

Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz: I see the future of urban forestry as one which connects people in communities to their surroundings, and one which allows people to take more responsibility for their lives and livelihoods.


What is the topic of your presentation and why is it important to talk about it?

Ian Shears: Cities are becoming increasingly dense, by 2050 it is forecast that 70% of the world’s population will reside in cities. By demonstrating the essential social and economic and environmental services that trees and green infrastructure provide we can articulate the benefits that nature can deliver in creating liveable cities and expound the significant contribution that a Green Infrastructure design-led approach can make towards addressing social, environmental and economic issues in our urban environment whilst also contributing to climate change resilience. How we govern the blue and green in our cities needs to evolve to non-jurisdictional partnership where all landowners contribute their fair share to greening our cities.

Susan Day: I am going to be speaking about communication, networking, and professional identity for urban foresters and allied professions. It is really an exercise in reflection—we need to think critically about our role in society, how we are perceived, how we partner with each other, and how we can best continue to gain and share knowledge. My goal is to get people talking about it and keep talking about it so we can move urban forestry ahead.

Chris Baines: My topic of the session at IUFC 2018 is wildlife in urban forestry. A city that is rich in wildlife is a healthy place for people.  For instance, certainly in the UK, there is a direct link between the volume and variety of birdsong, the health and longevity of local people and commercial property values.  Perhaps more importantly, access to nature is an appealing point of engagement with the urban forest for many people.  When we feed the birds in our gardens, or enjoy close contact with the wild woodland creatures in our parks we are engaging with the very essence of the urban forest on our doorsteps.  That, in turn, can help to foster a commitment to enjoyment and protection of the wider living landscape.

Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz: The topic of my session, People and Nature, is important because it directly grapples with equity in an urban forestry setting. The potential benefits of urban forests, including access to green spaces, clean air and water, and protection from wildfire hazards, are not realized by everyone equally, and through this session we hope to explore solutions for this problem.


Hope you are as excited for IUFC 2018 as we are and that we'll see you in Vancouver, BC on September 30 - October 3, 2018. Check all speakers lineup for IUFC 2018 and the detailed program here.


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