Injecting Biodiversity Into City Spaces

Sourced from Decision Point Online

Over half of the world’s people live in cities, and this will reach two-thirds by 2050. Most cities are situated on coasts or rivers, and currently more than 400 cities across the world are directly threatened by sea level rise, putting more than 400 million people at risk. Cities are therefore right at the frontline of climate change, as they are already being impacted in many places.

Because of this, they are leading the way in implementing adaptation strategies, to the tune of billions of dollars. These often involve large-scale environmental management, such as tree planting and sea walls, and can mean changes in infrastructure. Some of these can have negative impacts for biodiversity, and others can be beneficial, but in most cases, the impacts on biodiversity are accidental as it is not considered in the adaptation planning process. Because of their greenhouse gas emissions, cities make an enormous contribution to climate change. However, because cities have considerable wealth and resources, they are also in a position to actively respond to climate-change threats. Around the world it’s been estimated there are some 1.7 million adaptation measures currently ongoing. Many actions, such as catchment afforestation, street tree planting, and additional green space provision, will not only reduce human exposure to climate hazards, but can also be beneficial for biodiversity and conservation. This is especially important as urbanisation and the growth of cities is one of the most dramatic forms of land transformations, leading to the fragmentation, degradation and removal of natural habitat.

Cities can contain high levels of biodiversity and include important ecosystems for endangered species. Indeed, many cities and their associated urban areas can provide important opportunities for the conservation of threatened species. Adaptation planning for climate change is a unique opportunity to integrate proactive planning for biodiversity into urban landscapes. Globally, the ranges of at least 270 threatened species overlap with the area covered by just 58 city adaptation plans, including watershed catchments across more than 28 million km2. Including biodiversity in adaptation planning could thus have a significant positive impact, but the opportunity is largely being missed: fewer than 20% of plans specifically incorporate biodiversity.

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