Forests, health and climate change


Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

Forests are essential to our survival and well-being. Forests clean our air, our water, our soil and they regulate our climate, amongst many other things. Trees and forests are not always associated with urban landscapes. However, there too they provide invaluable, often invisible, services. Simply by acting as 'green oasis' in our concrete jungles, they offer recreation and health services for many European citizens.

How many of us love strolling through parks and green spaces in cities, tending our gardens and filling our homes with green plants? Access to green environments makes us happier and our bodies healthier. Scientific studies show that urban forests and green spaces help improve physical health and mental well-being. With more than three quarters of Europeans living in urban areas, trees, forests and green spaces mean more than ever before.

The way forward: more trees and urban forests?
As the European population ages and becomes more urbanised, the 'public health' service benefits from forests is likely to go up. In practical terms, this will mean that many cities need to extend their forests and green spaces and make them safer and more accessible. Consequently, afforestation, planting trees and greening the urban environment should be placed at the heart of local and regional spatial planning.

Management of forests in and around urban centres will need to be well designed taking both environmental considerations, such as climate change, and human considerations, such as an ageing population into account.

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