Based solely on their location in the center of urban agglomerations, new urban-industrial woodlands could provide substantial social functions for the nearby residents and fulfill significant ecological functions. There are, however, obstacles in the way. The acceptance of the new woodlands by the local public, is, to put it carefully, uncertain. While “the forest” in certain areas is often held in a deep, symbolically rooted high regard (e. g. Harrison 1992), this is not the case with urban-industrial woodlands. With these, people are directly experiencing how an economic structure, which once functioned and from which they secured their existence, is being overwhelmed by elements of nature in a surprisingly short time. The decline of the former economic structure is therefore blatant. It is clear that the perception of the new, post-industrial nature is damaged by the stigma of the painful social changes that made such nature possible.
We know, from many studies, that the assignment of terms like “nature” and “wilderness” to concrete parts of the landscape varies a great deal, for example, between residents of urban and rural areas (Lutz et al. 1999; Bauer 2005), and depends, not least of all, on the ecological knowledge of the observer. So biologists are less inclined than others to describe urban green spaces as “nature” or “wilderness.” In contrast, the tendency among residents to attribute a natural character to horticultural green spaces is greater (e. g. Jorgensen et al. 2005). In the classification of new urban- industrial woodlands, the discrepancies are even larger; the consensus about potential nature classifications is even more ambiguous, as the Leipzig study of Rink (2005), among others, demonstrates.
What shapes the character of the new urban-industrial woodlands is, briefly, the sharp contrast between a cultural layer of rubble, ruins and rusted iron and a natural layer that grows untamed and often surprisingly quickly. In the context of the former, one could diagnose the new woodlands as completely artificial, in the context of the latter as having a special wilderness character. Both, however, clearly belong together and create, from the characteristic double nature of urban-industrial woodlands, a product that is equally natural and artificial. This bipolarity does not, however, correspond to the general image of nature. Rather it brings about confusion and insecurity in the general classification as well as in the scientific classification of these spaces.
Consequently there are different classifications of urban-industrial woodlands as artificial or natural, as technologically shaped or as wilderness. It is clear that attached to such starkly different classifications will be significantly divergent assignments of value that will then become starting points for opposing concepts for development. Opportunities that would offer the potential social and ecological functions of the new woodlands for the development of the surrounding urban area may then be overlooked.
The perception of and the value given to urban-industrial woodlands is revealed not least through terminology, with whose help those value judgments are further conveyed. The main goal of this chapter is the development of a conceptual framework for classifying urban-industrial woodlands, one which allows their unusual features in comparison to other existing urban forest types, first, to be clearly discerned, and second, to be made semantically clear. Both are important prerequisites in order to be able to appropriately acknowledge the role of different types of urban woodlands and to be better able to make use of their social and ecological potential for further development of urban-industrial landscapes.
In the following sections, urban woodlands will be classified from different perspectives.
• First, types of urban and non-urban woodlands will be differentiated through a spatial approach.
• Then, how the influences of the urban surroundings (“the urban impacts”) change the ecological characteristics of conventional woodlands will be described.
• Through a historical perspective, four types of forests will be differentiated in view of their emergence and use history and thereby a few characteristics of urban-industrial woodlands will be determined.
• Finally, how the nature and wilderness character of different forest types can be estimated by expanding the traditional classifications of naturalness will be presented. For this, non-scientific as well as scientific approaches will be used.