Climate change models have predicted a rise in extreme weather around the world with results that are increasingly impacting people's everyday lives . Every year extreme weather brings greater snowfall, flooding, and power outages across the United Kingdom. In late November of 2021, Storm Arwen ripped through the United Kingdom with gusts reaching up to 100mph. Early estimates suggest around eight million trees were brought down in Scotland alone during the gales. Utilizing a new Storm Arwen Mapping tool developed by Forest Research and Scottish Forestry, woodland managers have been able to use satellite data to get an initial understanding of where the damage has occurred, without the immediate need for extensive and potentially risky site visits. According to Mark Rough, director of customer operations at the Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks "Storm Arwen has brought some of the most severe and challenging weather we have experienced in recent years" . Drone footage below of Countesswells Woods between Westhill & Kingswells in northeastern Scotland shows the extent of the devastating damage to the woodlands below.
Environment Minister Màiri McAllan underscored the impact of Storm Arwen in a statement following the devastation. McAllan highlighted “Storm Arwen provided a salutary lesson of the power of nature and the challenge of climate change. Our people suffered and so, too, did our natural environment. The impact is evident in the distressing images of flattened forests and woodlands which will take decades, if not centuries to recover from. Their loss reminds us of the significant role trees play in our lives, communities, economy and wellbeing" .
While our collaboration with University of Dundee students for this project took place in early 2021, the damage in the wake of Storm Arwen has brought a renewed focus to woodland and tree management strategies that can be taken to ensure greater climate resiliency. The storm has also provided a strong impetus to ask new questions and explore all potential opportunities to enhance our environments to both benefit people and our planet.
In March 2021, Design Outsider worked as facilitators through three workshops in collaboration with the University of Dundee Urban Planning students. The workshops were anchored around one guiding question: 'how could a reimagined landscape and a mass replanting of trees help bring back life to old places of work, identify new clusters of homes and ventures, and provide a new focus for a dynamic rural economy?' One session focused on the local context, a second session focused on the strategic context, and a third session included the merger of the local and strategic ideas through discussion and visualizations. We were very thankful to be joined by Emily Williamson an Ecologist Planner at the City of London, Ontario who provided thought provoking questions and feedback for students throughout the three workshops.
The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, sets targets for Scotland to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2045 with interim targets such as achieving 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. The benefits of trees in relation to carbon capture, air quality, health and well being are well documented and while new woodland and tree management strategies could be implemented throughout Scotland, a specific region - The Kingdom of Fife - was chosen to provide a focus for the students to examine strategic and local challenges and opportunities. The creation of a 'Fife Forest' would support both Fife and Scotland as a whole, working towards meeting emission reduction targets through both climate mitigation and adaptation.
The workshops began with 'what if...?' questions to challenge preconceptions and envision new possibilities. For example, what if...the public sector was decarbonized and committed to plant one tree for every citizen of Fife? What if...this were to continue for every year until 2045 the plan would result in 9,275,000 or approximately 10,000,000 trees. What if...there was a personal, private, public and corporate contribution to establishing a Fife Forest? What if...the private sector was to match the rate of planting by the public sector, the total amount of trees would equal 20,000,000? Working with landowners to deliver new policies and identify funding support, a Fife Forest plan could result in 5000-6000 new homes and result in 1000 new local jobs.
Following each session, the Design Outsider team synthesized data, information, and research gathered by the students. This background provided the basis for further illustrated interventions and proposed changes to the built and natural environment. A 'Fife Forest' could incorporate the 1) planting of 20 million new trees 2) adaptive reuse of industrial sites 3) connected recreational green pathways 4) planting of complete corridors 5) planting of miniature urban forests 6) greening of urban corridors (see Figure 1).
The students were tasked the following:
The Fife Forest proposal makes a push from the rural areas to more urban contexts blurring the line between the city and forest. By developing a coherent approach, the Fife Forest aims to stich together rural and urban communities through targeted corridors. The economic, social, environment and health benefits of connected pathways and policies could be achieved through 1) nature crossings and coverage zones 2) pocket forests and bike ways 3) shared gardens and sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) 4) public transportation and sound management 5) community facilities and water management 6) an urban sponge and greening and 7) forest management and wetland corridors.
Following the production of visualizations, we developed a mockup 'Fife Forest' social media account to showcase potential social media posts and content. A minimalist colour scheme and logo for a 'Fife Forest' would provide consistency across social media platforms. Sharing user generated content would also provide an opportunity to showcase the economic, environmental, social and health benefits of a Fife Forest to the world.