Are urban-industrial woodlands natural?

The question of the naturalness of urban woodland types leads, undeniab­ly, to starkly varying answers. The differences have to do with the differ­ent histories of the stands (Table 2), and also with differences in percep­tions of naturalness, which vary dramatically across different geographic reference areas and between different social groups (e. g. Henderson 1992; Ewert 1998; Lutz et al. 1999; Bauer 2005). How the characteristic double nature of urban-industrial woodlands as a product of both nature and cul­ture should therefore be classified remains an open question because tradi­tional scientific approaches to the classification of ecosystem types are usually oriented toward pristine ecosystems. A precise answer is, however, necessary, when, for example, a “near-natural” development of forest stands is demanded in public projects. What is meant by this, however, remains seemingly unspecified.

In this section it will be demonstrated that the particular characteristics of the woodland types shown in Table 2 can also be described in terms of their “naturalness” and “wildness.” This would seem to be an important prerequisite in order to make the best possible use of the varying social and ecological potentials of the different woodland types in the development of urban green spaces. Because these potentials are to be made transparent for different interested parties, for local residents as well as for stakeholders and scientists, a differentiation is made below on two levels.