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Trees will save our cities: report of Prof. Sanesi's seminar for the Agricultural Library

The cycle of online seminars "Open Green: green beyond the screen", promoted by the Library of the Agriculture Department of the Università degli Studi Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria, began on Tuesday 26 May. The initiative joins the national event "May of books". The inaugural meeting, on the theme "Urban and peri-urban forestry: trees will save our cities (even the planet?)", Had as a speaker Prof. Giovanni Sanesi (professor of forest management and forestry and director of the DiSAAT of the University of Bari). Greeting the numerous connected participants, the Rector of the Mediterranean, prof. Santo Marcello Zimbone, and the Director of the Department of Agriculture, prof. Giuseppe Zimbalatti, expressed praise for the initiative.
Prof. Salvatore Di Fazio (delegate for the Library Services) underlined how with the online delivery of the seminars we try to transform what today acts as a "screen" into a window that helps us to look at reality better. Just the Covid-19 emergency brought the issue of quality of life to the fore. "With respect to the serious environmental problems that confront us, from the urban to the planetary scale, we observe how the increase in the space reserved for green areas, forests, agriculture is often presented as the most effective solution". Therefore, continued Di Fazio, “if the cities, where most of us live, are the place of a sick environment, people also get sick more easily and in this case the widespread presence of green areas is even more important for the physical and mental health and well-being of individuals and communities ".
Prof. Sanesi began his speech by inviting us to look at the effects that the progressive growth of urbanized areas had on the environment and human settlements. "If we refer only to the period 2000-2006," said Sanesi, "the area occupied by buildings in Europe has grown by 3.4%, to the detriment of that previously covered by natural resources or destined for agriculture. The progressive waterproofing of soils and the loss of vegetation have had serious consequences for the global environment, but some of them are felt more heavily in cities "How? Suffice it to mention the "heat island" effect with a significant increase in summer temperatures, poor air quality, problems in controlling the outflow of rainwater, the increase in hydrogeological risk, the lack of pleasant places.
The speaker showed some European case studies, then shifting attention to Italian urban areas. “Most of the Italian population, over 60%, live in metropolitan areas - said Sanesi - with sometimes very high population densities, up to 1300 inhab. / Sq. Km. In most of Western Europe, the urban population amounts to almost 80% of the total population. In Italy, in the period 2001-2011 there was a loss of soil equal to 45 ha per day ". A trend reversal has recently been recorded, reflected by community strategies aimed at three objectives: limiting land use; the implementation of mitigation actions; incentive measures to free waterproofed soil surface, or taxation on negative interventions.
"Today - stressed Sanesi - the emphasis is on a more careful analysis of the goods and services that natural resources, ecosystems, can produce, according to four main categories (support, supply of goods, regulation, cultural services), applying this type of analysis also to urban green areas. It is interesting to note that the strategies linked to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with respect to many objectives, leverage precisely on the ecosystem services provided by natural resources. Thus, in many European cities, investments in urban green areas have grown, recognizing not only an economic return, but also very positive effects for the health of the environment and populations. "
Several studies have been done on the well-being of citizens in relation to the provision of urban greenery. The COVID-19 emergency has offered us many new research materials and it has been seen that: the areas where the virus has hit the most are the most polluted; among the citizens, those who were offered a better relationship with nature suffered less. From here, the opportunity to invest in "green infrastructures", that is, in the construction and refurbishment of networks of open and multifunctional vegetated spaces such as parks, gardens, tree-lined roads, wooded areas, green corridors along the river auctions, etc. "This theme - said Sanesi - today tends to be fully integrated, together with the objective of eliminating land consumption, in the laws and technical tools that guide territorial and urban planning at European level".
The theme of forestry and urban arboriculture is placed in this context. "The recent publication of the FAO guidelines on Urban and Peri-urban Forestry (2016) - specific focus of the Seminar - tries to systematise the things said, enhancing and disseminating good practices, as well as showing their effectiveness for the purposes of pursuit of sustainability objectives ". In this sense, Sanesi continued, "the importance of participatory approaches is emphasized, recognizing the role of the population as soon as proactive, but also active both in the implementation of urban forestry interventions and in the management of the urban green system". The recent "World Forum on Urban Forestry" held in 2018 in Mantua has given full visibility to the precious research work developed around the themes outlined. In conclusion, the rapporteur pointed out that in the national context the recent "climate decree" (CdM, DL 14.10.2019 n. 111) has introduced urgent measures that include actions for reforestation, as well as experimental tree planting programs, replanting and forestry, and for the creation of urban and periurban forests, with particular reference to metropolitan cities.
To the report of prof. Sanesi followed short interventions with questions and observations, including those of prof. Pasquale Marziliano and Prof. Giovanni Spampinato. Concluding the seminar, Prof. Di Fazio reaffirmed the importance of urban forestry, marking the need for systemic and integrated interventions, with the contribution of specific technical-scientific knowledge and interdisciplinary collaborations. From this point of view, the choice of the Degree Courses in Agricultural and Forestry and Environmental Sciences has been corroborated, in which new curricula for the design and management of green areas have recently been introduced. Finally, Prof. Zimbalatti, in thanking the organizers, the speaker and the participants, invited to take advantage of the interesting online training offer of the Department of Agriculture, also through the numerous scheduled seminars.
The next Open Green appointment is scheduled for Wednesday 3 June at 10 am, with a seminar by Rosario Schicchi (director of the Palermo Botanical Garden) on: "Monumental trees: knowledge, conservation, enhancement".

attached: pdf file with the extended version of the seminar of Prof. Sanesi and Link for the video with the recording of the seminar

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