Some 40% of strictly protected areas will be within 50km of a city by 2030.
Cities are homes for billions of people. By 2050 around 70% of the global population is predicted to live in urban areas. Yet as our cities grow, most species have an increasingly hard time surviving on this planet. A new report titled Nature in the Urban Century highlights the scale of the challenges and shows how we can reverse this trend.
The report, which was produced by The Nature Conservancy together with other leading organizations, adds to the insights of its predecessor, Cities and Biodiversity Outlook report, from 2012, which was the first attempt to uncover how cities impact nature. The link between urban expansion and biodiversity loss is made even more clear in the new publication.
A new city does not simply stand on the land it occupies, but draws resources extensively from far and wide. It also increases local pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and water contamination levels, impacting sites that at first glance remain outside of urban influence: farms, forests, and protected areas.
Thomas Elmqvist, a co-author and editor of the report, emphasizes that the report goes deep into not only describing the symptoms and drivers but also into exploring the ways to better manage our cities for the good of both humans and nature, making biodiversity a key concern. “By focussing on areas with rapid urban growth and identifying both challenges and opportunities for protection and the sustainable use of biodiversity,” he says. ‘Nature in the Urban Century’ brings together and connects global concerns about planetary and human health with equity and sustainable global urbanization.”
The authors emphasize that often what’s bad for nature is also bad for humans. With rapid urbanization we are breaking natural links that have existed for centuries, with little knowledge of their importance for ecosystem resilience. In coming decades, for instance, 120 million people who are expected to live in coastal regions might be increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events like floods and storms due to climate change and unchecked urban expansion.
Often, however, it’s bad planning and bad governance, not cities as such, that are to blame for problems.
The report calls on decision-makers to set higher targets on biodiversity conservation by making it an integral part of urban planning. The authors also suggest that local planners need to be engaged in national planning for biodiversity conservation goals with better access to funding sources such as Global Environmental Facility and the Green Climate Fund for biodiversity conservation in cities.
If city planners and decision-makers learn to make smarter choices in respect to nature and have the necessary resources to do so, we can hope for much better outcomes, the authors say.