Student Project | Ignite Woods | Eleonora Santoro

Winner of the 2021 WLA Awards – Merit Award in the Student – Graduate category

Accepting the global southwards shift to mitigate dusty futures though landscape adaptation,recognizing threats and opportunities of reverted agricultural lands envisioning a state of symbiotic equilibrium between Humans and Woods.

The Ignite Woods project has a double soul: on the one hand, it wants to bring attention to the issue of the increase in forest fires close to urban centres in relation to climate change; on the other hand, it wants to feed several cultural bonfires hidden among the woods born from the abandonment of agricultural practices.

Abandoned Farmland

In Italy, one of the areas most affected by the process of abandonment is that of the Po River Basin, where there are predominantly wooded areas on the mountains while the plain is mainly occupied by intensive agricultural practices. Where the two areas meet, a fragmented transition zone with urban areas is formed. Before most of these territories were dedicated to agriculture and nowadays we can see the results of a race for the reconquest of land by forests and urban areas, an uncontrolled and unplanned process that has generated situations where cities have surrounded wooded areas.

Vortex of Dust

As a result of climate change, cities will soon experience rising temperatures and prolonged periods of drought. Regions that initially did not have to worry about wildfires are now experiencing frequent fire activity. In Piedmont, Italy, the fire alert covers the period from the 1st of November till the 31st of March. The maximum alert status, instead, in 2020 has been postponed by almost one month more than the ordinary period of danger. This postponement is likely to be increasingly prolonged in the coming years, making forests more vulnerable.

Domestic Woods

But which forests are we talking about? There are many facets to it, but we are used to thinking that woodland equals pure Nature only, forgetting that they were our homes when we still lived in their crown and moved along the highways of branches. They were and are a source of different resources and now they are also seen as sanctuaries for the soul.

Within a forest, there is much more humanity than we may think.

Ignite Woods

The goal of the project is to mitigate the future risk of fires in the Sizzone Valley – Piedmont, Italy – and to enhance and reactivate an area with many values, from ecological to productive and touristic values.

To achieve this, landscape adaptation tools have been used. Starting with agroforestry practices, which allow erosion reduction, to protect crops, improve water quality and diversify farm enterprises. Introducing ecological spots, which increase the biodiversity of the site and the food available for wildlife. Reclaiming former agricultural canals as rainwater harvesting to irrigate, mitigate drought and facilitate mobility within the woods when not in use. Having in common the task of mitigating wildfires, enhancing the life inside the valley and promote local markets.

Comparing the two fire risk prediction maps – GIS-based – with and without mitigation tools, it can be noted that the danger of wildfire has decreased on average throughout the valley with the project.

In seventy years so,
we will see our woods ignited
or we will ignite our woods?

Ignite Woods

List of Credits

Student: Eleonora Santoro, Politecnico di Milano – Master of Science in Landscape Architecture. Land Landscape Heritage
Thesis Advisor: Hope Ives Strode
Thesis Co-Advisor: Michael Franz Jakob

Image Credits: Eleonora Santoro

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