The first VEG-GAP workshop in Madrid was held on 3 December at the “El Huerto del Retiro” environmental education center in the Spanish capital, whose municipality is an institutional partner of the European project. As also happened for the October workshop in Bologna, the meeting was an opportunity to introduce, at local level, the actions envisaged by the European Project LIFE VEG-GAP "Vegetation for Urban Green Air Quality Plans" and to explore the relation between the project and the current local environmental strategies related to air quality, green infrastructure and Madrid's adaptation to climate change.
Furthermore, the aim of the workshop was to know other research projects related to urban vegetation and to move forward on defining the simulation scenario on modelling the impact of urban vegetation on air pollution, specifically on NO2, PM and O3 concentration, as well as on air temperature, taking into account the risks and benefits on human health and vegetation itself.
The general presentation of VEG-GAP was carried out by Rafael Borge, Industrial Chemichal and Environmental Engineering Department Teacher at ETSI (Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Industriales - UPM). Borge has emphasized that it is necessary to set a proper working scale for a large city like Madrid and how the project will give the opportunity to analyze the different NBS (nature-based solutions) proposed, by adapting to the specific characteristics and dimensions of the cities involved.
Then, Professor Borge went into more detail about the activities that are already almost complete: the analysis of what has been done and the collection of data at local level. The Spanish partner is now studying / simulating the influence of vegetation on temperature and humidity. The next step would then be to share among the partners the results and information acquired and then to disseminate them, also among the public: the Municipality of Madrid will organize events and demonstration days in the capital.
Ángeles Cristóbal (Sustainability S.D.G. for the Municipality of Madrid) took than the stand, stating that in Madrid the main air quality problems are due to high NOx concentrations and O3 violations. She then highlights that in the past, climate change and air quality management were faced separately, nonetheless, currently, they are addressed conjointly, not only in the municipality, but also the university.
Juan Azcárate (Energy and Climate Change S.D.G. for the Municipality of Madrid, spoke about Plan A, which gathers air quality and climate change strategies. He explained that, regarding diagnosis, the same sources and the same inventory on trends analysis are starting to be used. In 2018, 24 humidity and temperature sensors were installed, developing an urban climatic network, to deeply analyze, for example, urban island effect. According to Azcárate VEG-GAP project represents a great opportunity to work on air quality, climate change and green areas, in an integrated way.
Nuria Bautista, water and green areas management D.G. technical advisor for the Municipality of Madrid, laid out that there has always been the idea that vegetation and air quality must be addressed conjointly. Currently, they are developing different actions concerning urban vegetation planning and management, including infrastructures and connectivity reinforcement; green areas management and maintenance, taking into account climate change variable. She appreciates VEG-GAP project because it also focuses on choosing the best plant species in different contexts.
Juan García, member of the environmental organization Ecologistas en Acción, warns that we must avoid the risk of believing that problems can be solved just by planting trees. According to him, the biggest problem on air quality is road traffic management. He also stressed that Madrid, in its historical reality, has strangled green areas with various urban and infrastructural developments.
Mónica de Blas, Urban Development Strategic Planning D.G. for the Municipality of Madrid, presented Metropolitan Forest Project, a "green ring" that finishes and joins green areas and regional parks around Madrid. The intention is to link big green areas (Monte del Pardo, Soto de Viñuelas, Casa de Campo, Arroyo Meaques ...) from the north and west to Manzanares, and to do the same from the north (Valdebebas, Feria de Madrid, Cerro Almodovar ...) until reaching Manzanares. It is about integrating these green areas with the river basin network and cattle routes. There has already been an analysis of soil classification to analyze its availability and its vocation. The project includes a long-term plan, since the actions are planned for a time period of 12 to 20 years. The goal is to start to permeate green patches from the outside area to the center. Mónica de Blas argues that these green areas connectors could be supported by infrastructures or could be taken into account when designing new civil infrastructures as project’s constraints.
Numerous participants then asked questions or contributed to the discussion.
Rocío Alonso (CIEMAT, Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas) offered to provide information on studies carried out by CIEMAT to implement them in VEG-GAP project. The Center has, in fact, carried out studies on the emission of hundreds of species, in particular on their allergy level and their ability to tolerate pollutant’s impact on the urban environment. Alonso informed that CEIMAT has measurement sensors installed in municipal area "Palacio Valdés", next Monte del Pardo.
Eva Escobar (Air Quality representative, Community of Madrid) explained the operation of "Blue Plan" as an air quality strategy in Madrid, it is closely related to ARCOVERDE project, reforestation plan that proposes to create new connectors among Madrid’s municipalities. So, it offered data to be used in VEG-GAP project.
Then, Pedro Castaño (Regional Parks Service, Community of Madrid) talked about ARCOVERDE project, aimed at connecting protected regional natural spaces. According to Castaño the cattle routes network can be a great tool for Spanish public grounds heritage preservation, a possible future green alternative to road traffic network and which allows mobility from the peri-urban areas to the city.
Consuelo Garrastazu and Elena Boldo (Madrid Salud) suggested that VEG-GAP includes data to improve health, such as allergenic species. They also stated that there are data showing life expectancy (up to 6 years) between north and south municipalities in Madrid: the explanation falls in many variables, mainly social variables but also environmental ones may be reflected.
Luis Tejero (Climate Change Department, Municipality of Madrid) also highlighted vegetation incidence in heat waves tempering study.
José Luis Rodríguez Gamo (Ferrovial company) stressed the importance of planning big scale projects, integrating them in the several strategical plans in the city, and reminded the value of green areas ecosystem service. Past infrastructures, according to Gamo, are not effective for climate change because of a divided planning. Finally, he contemplates the possibility and the need for private companies to support projects like VEG-GAP economically.
David de la Paz (UPM Industrial Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department) explained that his department is dealing with BVOC emission, pollen, meteorological influence (temperature, aerodynamic properties and emissions), 466 species’ modeling, PSEM emission model (Plant Specific Emission Model BIOVOC). To simulate meteorology, they analyze in several scales, since what happens in the peri-urban area affects urban climate.
In closing the workshop Rafael Borge, said that the project contacts for Madrid are opened to receive information from all interested parties and suggested the third week of January 2020 as the limit to receive suggestions and information that will help define simulation scenarios regarding species planting, their percentages, how to model urban gardens and green covers.