Urban ecosystems are best for biophilia
Despite occupying less than 1% of the Earth’s land surface, urban areas are home to more than half of the human race and offer the best place to encourage biophilia – people’s affinity with nature. The condition of urban ecosystems profoundly affects the quality of our lives and is important for a surprising amount of biodiversity.
Urban ecosystems help clean our air and water, manage flooding and cool urban heat islands, as well as bringing enjoyment for people. The recent pandemic has brought a new and profound appreciation of the importance of having quality nature in abundance and accessible to us all to support our wellbeing. Urban areas are key to global sustainability and can be part of the solution.
Issues facing urban ecosystems
Years of pollution and poor management have degraded what biodiversity urban areas had. Poorly thought out development has either encroached on natural areas or focused on profit through saleable units. Polluted run-off and wastewater reduce the quality of urban water systems. Habitat degradation reduces the amount of suitable habitat and fragmentation separates suitable patches with roads and new development. Wildlife in cities are more exposed to toxicants and invasive species threaten habitats and biodiversity. Conversely, the modern need to ‘tidy up’ urban areas can also degrade biodiversity, with loss of scrubby marginal areas, paving of front gardens and replacement of lawns with fake plastic grass.
Solutions to help urban ecosystems
Well-planned urban areas provide effective, natural flood management as well as a refuge for biodiversity. The principles of blue-green infrastructure – connecting urban water and vegetation systems – encourage urban green space and promote habitat provision. Wildlife corridors and connections between green spaces maintain vital links between habitat.
Adding to trees in the public realm with native fruit-producing types not only provides food, but it also helps urban pollinators as well as other species such as rare beetles, fungi and lichen. Small parcels of empty public land can be turned into community gardens. Biodiverse roofs help with stormwater runoff, provide habitats and can even be used to produce food.
HOW WE CAN ALL HELP
- Enjoy your lunch in a park and appreciate nature
- Keep your garden as wild as possible
- Avoid using pesticides
- Create a bug hotel
- Build a green or biodiverse roof on your bin house
- Plant bee and butterfly-friendly flowers
- Ensure pets are collared, preferably with bells
- Don’t litter and pick up any you see
- Join a local wildlife group
Ramboll's work supporting urban ecosystems
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