The outstanding social and ecological roles of urban forests in the growth of cities has become widely known. In many parts of the world, despite or even because of continuing suburbanization, initiatives are being put forth to preserve urban forests, to develop them further and to make them accessible to the public.
This volume focuses on a particular component of the urban forest matrix – urban wild woodlands. We understand these to be stands of woody plants, within the impact area of cities, whose form is characterized by trees and in which a large leeway for natural processes makes possible a convergence toward wilderness. The wilderness character of these urban woodlands can vary greatly. We differentiate between two kinds of wilderness. The “old wilderness” is the traditional one; it may return slowly to woodland areas when forestry use has been abandoned. The enhancement of wilderness is a task already demanded of urban and peri-urban forestry in many places.
This book would like to direct the attention of the reader to a second kind of wilderness, which we call “new wilderness.” This arises on heavily altered urban-industrial areas where abandonment of use makes such change possible. The wild nature of urban abandoned areas was discovered in the 1970s through urban-ecological research. Since then, in a very short time, profound structural changes in industrial countries have led to hundreds or thousands of hectares in urbanized areas becoming available for natural colonization processes.
This leads to the paradoxical situation that cities continue to grow nearly unchecked, while at the same time large expanses of land in the centers of shrinking cities are no longer needed, and in principle, are available for the development of spontaneous nature. Areas particularly affected in this way are those which have been shaped by industry and for which no future prospects for mining, steel working, etc. exist.
The articles in this book make clear that wild urban woodlands offer great opportunities for providing ecological and social functions to urban residents. However, new wilderness is not easily accepted by a broad public. It emerges as an immediate neighbor in heavily developed areas, but is frequently a terra incognita to which humans have developed no entry.
For nature conservation, forestry, open-space planning and landscape architecture, new wilderness means new demands as well. Does the nature of abandoned areas correspond to the nature conservation model that is usually oriented toward traditional pristine ecosystems or toward the rem
nants of the pre-industrial cultural landscape? What role can forestry play on sites where no forester has ever been? Can open-space planning make use of sites whose character is completely different from conventional green spaces and is instead shaped by the remnants of earlier urban – industrial uses and uncontrolled ecosystem dynamics? Is design by landscape architects superfluous or is it, on the contrary, necessary, in order to facilitate access to the sites?
For the old wilderness as well as the new, the same is true: A sustainable development of wild urban woodlands, a wide acceptance of the opportunities for further development of urban spaces that are connected with this, will only succeed through an alliance between different disciplinary perspectives. The contributions to this book address this topic from social – and natural-scientific perspectives and lead to integrated conceptual approaches.
The articles in the first section characterize wild urban woodlands as a new component of urban forests. In the second section, attitudes toward wild woodlands are the focus. Following that, ecological studies provide an understanding of natural processes in urban woodlands. In the fourth and final section, the integration of different perspectives within the framework of conceptual approaches follows, illustrated with concrete projects.
The contributions are the result of the international conference “Wild Forests in the City – Post-industrial Urban Landscapes of Tomorrow.” The conference took place from 16-18 October 2003 in Dortmund, Germany and was organized by the Institute of Ecology at the Technical University Berlin in cooperation with the Projekt Industriewald Ruhrgebiet (Industrial Forest Project of the Ruhr).
To the many who were involved in making the conference and this book a reality, we would like to offer our sincere thanks. Thank you, first of all, to Thomas Neiss, chairman of the advisory board to the Industriewald Ruhrgebiet, for providing the initiative for the conference. The conference and this publication were supported by funds from the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia through the State Development Corporation of North Rhine-Westphalia. With the organization of the conference, Renate Spath of the Ministry of the Environment and Conservation, Agriculture and Consumer Protection of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia as well as Michael Borth and Oliver Balke of the Projekt Industriewald Ruhrgebiet provided enormous support. From the large group of our Berlin supporters, we would especially like to thank Lorenz Poggendorf and Gisela Falk who ensured that the Dortmund conference was perfectly organized. Finally we would like to thank the authors for their contributions and the colleagues who assisted in the review process. And last but not least, for the realization of this book in its present form, we would like to thank Uwe Starfinger, who undertook the layout and technical editing, and Kelaine Vargas, who translated many of the book’s chapters and provided the language editing.
Overall we hope that this book will contribute to furthering opportunities for the development of wild urban forests as a special component of the urban forest matrix.
Berlin, October 2004
Ingo Kowarik and Stefan Korner