Urban Forests: The breathing life of Metro Manila

June 24, 2024 Monday

Arroceros Forest Park, the “last lung of Manila,” provides sanctuary for urban dwellers seeking refuge from the extreme heat.

MANILA, 24 June 2024 In Metro Manila, where concrete and steel dominate the skyline, urban forests offer services that reduce the impacts of urbanization and climate change.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, which stores carbon in their biomass and soil. Trees also produce oxygen, essential for all life forms.

Forests in metropolitans and cities help reduce the urban heat island effect, where city temperatures are higher than surrounding rural areas due to heat-absorbing materials and structures such as asphalt and buildings.

Trees provide shade and release water vapor through transpiration which cools the air. They also decrease the risk of flooding and erosion as their root systems enhance soil structure and permeability.

In densely populated cities like Metro Manila, air pollution poses a health risk. Urban forests filter and improve air quality. Trees remove pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone from the air.

Beyond environmental benefits, urban forests are biodiversity hotspots as they offer nesting sites, shelter, and food for birds, insects, and small mammals. They can also be planted with native tree species to promote the conservation of local flora and fauna and maintain ecological balance.

Access to green spaces is linked to health benefits as it promotes both physical and mental well-being. Studies have shown that exposure to green spaces reduces stress levels, lowers blood pressure, and improves mood. Activities like walking, jogging, or simply relaxing in urban forests contribute to better physical and mental health.

Urban forests serve as classrooms that provide educational opportunities about ecology, conservation, and sustainability. Schools and organizations use urban forests for hands-on learning experiences to teach students and the public about the importance of environmental stewardship and biodiversity.

Urban forests also offer a natural laboratory for scientists and researchers to study ecological processes, climate impacts, and conservation strategies, which contributes to scientific knowledge and environmental policy.

Additionally, urban forests offer economic benefits. Green spaces serve as communal areas where people gather for recreation, socializing, and cultural events. Properties near well-maintained urban forests often see increased values, which attract residents and businesses, and contribute to the local economy. Moreover, urban parks and nature reserves are popular recreational destinations that attract tourists and residents alike, thereby boosting local businesses and tourism revenue.

Here’s a closer look at some of the urban forests in the Metro Manila:

1. Arboretum Forest
Nestled within the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, the Arboretum Forest is a 22-hectare green haven. This urban forest serves as a living laboratory for environmental research and education. With its rich biodiversity, including rare tree species, the Arboretum Forest offers a vital green space for recreation and learning amid the university’s academic environment.

2. Arroceros Forest Park
Often referred to as the “last lung of Manila,” Arroceros Forest Park spans 2.2 hectares along the banks of the Pasig River. Despite its modest size, this park contains over 3,500 trees and shrubs. It was reported in April that the park's temperature was 5°C lower than the city's average temperature. This proves the importance of trees in the city to have a cooler and healthier environment.

3. La Mesa Nature Reserve
La Mesa Nature Reserve, part of the larger La Mesa Watershed, is a sprawling 2,659-hectare area that serves as a crucial water reservoir for Metro Manila. This reserve is also a prime example of successful reforestation efforts and environmental conservation.

4. Pasig Rainforest Park
Pasig Rainforest Park, or Pasig City Rainforest Adventure Experience (RAVE) Park, is a unique 8-hectare urban forest that combines recreation, education, and conservation. Located in Pasig City, this park features a mini-zoo, botanical garden, butterfly pavilion, and adventure facilities.

As Metro Manila deals with rapid urbanization and climate challenges, there is a need for continued investment in these green spaces and to ensure that they remain part of the city's landscape and culture. Embracing and expanding these green areas will be vital in building a greener, healthier, and more resilient Metro Manila.

Arbor Day, or the day dedicated to planting trees, is celebrated every June 25th in the country to develop greater public awareness on the importance and role of trees in environmental health and human life.