Tijuca National Park is said to be the largest urban forest in the world, with an area of 39.58 square kilometers (15.28 square miles), although this title is disputed with Johannesburg, South Africa. Today, Tijuca is the largest urban forest in the world and attracts around 2 million visitors a year. But in the midst of the seemingly unspoiled natural environment in the middle of one of Brazil's main urban centers, it is still possible to see the hollow shells of ranch houses that the young forest has not yet fully claimed. Our capital is full of trees.
In fact, although it may not always seem like it, London is so full of foliage that it is technically a forest. That's according to a United Nations definition that states that a forest is any place that contains at least 20 percent of trees. But it's not just real forests that make London a forest, it's everything else. Unlike other cities (Paris, for example), London has a lot of trees and greenery right in the heart of the metropolis.
Think about Hyde Park or Regent's Park to start. Or Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park and Clapham Common further to the confines of the capital. Then there's the land around estates, private gardens, London's iconic squares, 900,000 street trees and outdated “edges” such as railway embankments and roadsides as well. In fact, a whopping 47 percent of this city is made up of green and blue spaces.
But the impact of trees on our well-being is even greater than that. A study published in June showed that just a two-hour dose of nature each week significantly increased people's mental and physical health. And while it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this means mini-breaks in the Lake District, it turns out that even short trips to city parks can improve people's mood up to four hours later. And that doesn't even mention the joy of sitting under a cooling awning on a hot day (although that may seem quite distant in our current cold climate).
But it is the Jacaranda that has become synonymous with Joburg. While Pretoria may be unofficially known as the city of Jacaranda, with more than 70,000 trees lining its streets, it is Johannesburg that has the most Jacaranda trees, with the first tree planted on Charlton Terrace in Doornfontein in the early forties. According to the World Resources Institute, DC's urban tree canopy is nearly 35%, with nearly 2 million trees citywide. The main entrance to the park is located in Plaza Afonso Viseu, where visitors can access the Tijuca forest.
Despite the attention given to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in recent centuries, Brazil's Atlantic rainforest ecosystem has been much worse. This distinction is a celebration of their creativity and sustainability in creating healthier urban spaces. And so, the reforestation process began with the replanting of more than 100,000 trees after the arduous task of expropriating land in the interest of the public. In addition, London's 388,400 acres of urban forests comprise more than 8 million trees, making the city one of the greenest urban centers on the planet.
The city is also home to the country's first urban park, called Rock Creek Park, as part of its approximately 7,000 acres of parkland and has two main rivers flowing through the district. The wildlife park's population includes many insects, birds, howler monkeys, ocelots and other endangered species of the Amazon rainforest. While that doesn't place the city in the same range as the Amazon, it leaves us competing with Sherwood and New Forest, places that are considered quite leafy. The Tijuca forest comprises 3,953 hectares of reclaimed land that was previously cleaned for coffee and charcoal production.
Over the next few decades, the Tijuca Forest gained the status of a National Forest, receiving with it numerous protections and expansions to its boundaries. London's 3000 parks offer a wonderful dose of nature, making the city one of the greenest urban centers in the world. Eventually, almost every slope of Rio would be stripped of bare forests as coffee and sugar cane plantations took their place. Urban forests play an important role in benefiting the environmental conditions of their respective cities.
Between 1590 and 1797, for example, the number of cane mills increased from six to 120, at the expense of the city's Atlantic rainforest. . .