Urban forests represent forest ecosystem components growing in or around the cities, towns, and communities where people live and work. Urban parks, street trees, gardens, greenways, river corridors, wetlands and shelterbelts of trees come under urban forests.
Through filtering of air, water, providing habitat and shade for urbanized wild animals, these forests add beauty, form, and structure to urban design providing a better place for human recreation as well.
Urban forests help to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate of the cities. Urban greeneries stores and captures atmospheric carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. It also influences energy needs for heating and cooling of the city buildings. In fact, Forests are the most efficient, inexpensive, and natural systems to combat and adapt to the changing climate in urban areas.
The first urban wildlife refuge, Rohini Urban Forests & Wildlife Habitat (RUFWH) in Rupandehi district of Nepal was established with the purpose of preserving green space and biodiversity in and around urban areas. This urban forest is home to twenty different species of birds, snakes, alligators, porcupines, and wide varieties of flora and fauna.
Properly planned urban forests address biodiversity crises by connecting urban biodiversity to surrounding forests and ecosystems. According to McKinney, the loss and fragmentation of natural habitat have reduced the richness of taxa including plants, birds, insects, and mammals in the urban core to less than half of that found in rural areas. So, promoting urban forest is an urgent need to restore lost biodiversity.
In Nepal, urban forests have not been adequately integrated into urban land use and planning processes. The Ministry of Urban Development had published the National Urban Development Strategy in 2011 which revealed that the forest cover is only 3% in Kathmandu against 10 % in Pokhara. No standard peer-reviewed research on the urban forest has been conducted since then.
The Nepal Government is lacking a comprehensive approach to promote and support urban forest promotion and conservation programmes. As per Kathmandu Valley Development Authority, there has been great damage along the inner roads. Trees around the ring road of Kathmandu Valley were destroyed due to lack of proper urban forest planning and management approaches in the past.
Afforestation in the barren lands, garden and park development is immediately needed. Furthermore, we can’t underestimate the importance of social mobilization and local awareness as well. Integration of urban forests and green infrastructures are essential along with cities’ green recovery strategies to conserve urban biodiversity.