Institution: Department Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry, University of Padova – Italy


Keywords: Wild Urban Woodlands, Urban Planning, Green Infrastructures, Ecosystem Services, Urban Regeneration

Wild urban woodlands are the result of spontaneous recolonization by plants of abandoned areas within urban and peri-urban areas. Compared to some European metropolitan areas, in Italy this “unconventional” nature is usually not considered in urban plans as part of the green infrastructure. We use several case studies spread throughout Italian cities to describe the variability of wild urban woodlands. We analyse, through the use of historical images and comparing results from urban planning tools, their evolution within the urban matrix. We couple this analysis with that of the structural features of these woodlands to outline their potential role in urban plans and regeneration process. Regardless of their consideration in the planning process, wild urban woodlands enhance cities’ capacity of providing complementary ecosystem services and support a variety of flora and fauna that have been disappearing in urban environments. Furthermore, these areas have an overlooked potential as new spaces for educational and artistic activities, as well as for providing climate change adaptation opportunities. Therefore, one urgent challenge for city planning, in Italy as well as in many other countries, is to consider these areas as integral parts of the urban green infrastructure. Indeed, urban regeneration approaches should take into account the intrinsic dynamic conditions and the range of ecosystem services provided to citizens by these woodlands. Consequently different forest management approaches should be developed to promote a variety of outcomes in terms of ecosystem services and to guarantee the sustainability of maintaining these areas over a medium and long term.