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Madrid’s Urban Forest Isn’t Taking Root

Extreme weather and tree die-offs have hampered the Spanish capital’s plan to establish a 75-kilometer woodland, turning a “tree cemetery” into a political flashpoint. 

Saplings at the Bosque Metropolitano site in Madrid, in 2022.

Saplings at the Bosque Metropolitano site in Madrid, in 2022.

Photographer: Emilio Parra Doiztua/Bloomberg
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In mid-March, officials in Madrid reopened an area of Cerro Almodóvar, a hill overlooking the southeastern edge of the city.  Trees were replanted, a new pedestrian access route was built and the site’s former scrubland was transformed into an accessible green space.  

The mini urban rejuvenation might not have drawn much attention had it not been linked to a larger project: the Bosque Metropolitano — the Metropolitan Forest — an ambitious plan to encircle the Spanish capital with 75 kilometers (46.5 miles) of woodland. When ready, the orbital forest will feature a million new holm oak, poplar, ash, elm and strawberry trees — the latter of which appear on Madrid’s coat of arms — link existing parkland areas, reclaim landfill sites and create space for new sports facilities, including an educational adventure park for children. Besides providing recreational amenities, the project also promises a host of environmental benefits for residents, such as mitigating the urban heat island effect, improving air quality and flood resilience, and absorbing up to 170,000 tons of carbon when the trees reach maturity within about 12 years, the city said.