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The Quito Cities4Forests Bridge
Last week in Quito, Cities4Forests co-created a pilot project at the Jardin Botanico's International Orchid Exhibition demonstrating the potential of forest-positive wood in urban construction. Over 12,000 people attended the 4-day exhibition to witness the breathtaking beauty of 5,000 types of orchids and bromeliads from around the world, and to reflect on how their natural habitats can be conserved for future generations. The Cities4Forests bridge is a small, climate-positive example of what we envision when cities work with local people and the landscape -- building new infrastructure while restoring nature at the same time.
In designing the bridge, the Cities4Forests team collaborated with a local indigenous sawmill, local architects, and carpenters to use eucalyptus sourced from trees inside the municipality that must be removed to make way for native forest restoration. By using eucalyptus sustainably harvested from the city’s “inner forest”, the bridge helps further plans to gradually remove this exotic tree species and restore native biodiversity. Furthermore, there is 4,862 lbs of CO2 (2,205kg) sequestered in the bridge timber, demonstrating potential climate solutions based on building with sustainably-sourced wood.
Finding profitable and beneficial uses for eucalyptus wood can help cities like Quito restore their inner and nearby forests as trees are removed and native species reintroduced. Read more about our take on the "wood urbanism" revolution.
The bridge pays tribute to naturalist and explorer Alexander Von Humboldt who was celebrated at the exhibition on his 250th anniversary. During his visit to Quito he documented native vegetation and recognized for the first time the concept of unique “ecosystems” and brought new knowledge and inspiration back to the old world. Far ahead of his time, Von Humboldt warned of the risks of deforestation such as floods, landslides, and droughts.
Ecuador possesses a dense amount of biodiversity, holding 8% of all Earth’s amphibian, 5% of reptile and 16% of bird species within 0.2% of earth’s land area. Unfortunately, only around 5% of Ecuador’s native western forests remain, due in part to widespread Eucalyptus plantations in the Ecuadorian Andes. Not all Eucalyptus is bad, however the increased of monoculture plantations presents a heightened fire risk, depletes the water table, contaminates soil with Eucalyptol resin, and starves native fauna of food, water, and ultimately habitat. (See the critical work of Tropismo: www.tropismoecuador.com). The pairing of Eucalyptus in urban uses and the biological diversity of the orchids is intended to raise awareness of not only the potential of wood as a construction material, but also to improve forest conservation practices in Latin America.
The idea for the bridge was planted during the Cities4Forests workshop facilitated with Quito in April 2019 to further develop the City's goals and capacity - a journey of discovery to inspire new thinking and accelerate current forests, trees, and sustainability initiatives. The workshop brought together key people and departments from across the city to share challenges, ideas, plans and projects around working with trees and forests. The workshop uncovered meaningful and nuanced insights, and set the foundations for long term sustainable change. Some of Quito’s goals include:
Continuing to protect the heritage trees in the city
Continued protection of Quito’s watershed
Linking climate action plans to forest conservation and restoration
Improved guidelines on sustainable timber from Ecuador’s forests
This bridge is part of process to keep forests standing by supporting sustainable livelihoods, and community conservation and restoration work. It also represents a climate change innovation as cities look to wood as a building material that uses less fossil fuel, reduces greenhouse gasses, and sequesters carbon inside the material. This is a “triple win” for cities: beautiful architecture, low or net-negative carbon materials, and local forests protected through sustainable wood sourcing.
The city of Quito has recently become a leader in protection and restoration of nearby forests to protect local watersheds through the effort of the Quito Water Fund (FONAG). This is just one of the many ways that Quito is taking responsibility for its impact on forests. Cities4Forests is continuing its work with the Quito municipality to advance these goals and expand the cities restoration and conservation plans within the city and the influence it can have beyond its boundaries.
How is your city bridging forest conservation and citizen engagement?
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