Cities and Biodiversity Outlook
Ecosystem services must be integrated in urban policy and planning

Urban and environmental planning provide opportunities and formal legal mechanisms to biodiversity conservation into the design, building codes, zoning schemes, spatial plans, strategic choices, and enforcement of city management

The practice of urban planning is widely recognized as a vehicle for securing the long-term public good at the city scale. Especially in fast-growing, low-income cities, there is a widespread call to strengthen urban-planning capacity.

To integrate urban biodiversity and ecosystem services into local governance, the key elements of a Local Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (LBSAP) can be incorporated into overarching city-wide plans. Such city-wide plans are visible and can trickle down to guide each of the sector-specific plans that fall beneath them. The "trickle-down" model of integrating biodiversity consideration is potentially applicable to any city-wide plan.

Not all urban planning is spatial, and identifying strategic entry points can have a significant effect on the way business is done. For example, municipalities can promote organic and environmentally friendly products and services, and create incentives for service providers to work toward ecosystem integrity. Local governments also have some control over the goods that transit through their boundaries, and they can develop and enforce legislation and control over these goods in an ecologically appropriate manner.

Green infrastructure can also boost municipal tax revenues by stimulating green economic activity, attracting high-caliber professionals and businesses, and increasing real-estate value.

AICHI TARGET 17: By 2015 each Party has developed, adopted as a policy instrument, and has commenced implementing an effective, participatory and updated national biodiversity strategy and action plan. Cities are encouraged to develop local strategies and action plans on biodiversity in support of national strategies.

AICHI TARGET 3: By 2020, at the latest, incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity are eliminated, phased out or reformed in order to minimize or avoid negative impacts, and positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are developed and applied, consistent and in harmony with the Convention and other relevant international obligations, taking into account national socio economic conditions. City authorities have key mandates on this target. Strategies include facilitating licensing of green businesses, enforcing environmental regulations, providing incentives for new (and greener) technologies (such as tax breaks or free land/infrastructure), promoting and attracting green investors, and mainstreaming of "payment for ecosystems services" mechanisms.

AICHI TARGET 11: By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes. In the USA, out of $81 billion invested in biodiversity (most of it in the design, establishment, and operation of protected areas) in 2007-2008, $61 billion came from local authorities. Parkways, corridors, and municipal and provincial parks (public and private) arguably can make the difference in reaching this target.

How Accra Benefits from Its Wetlands
Accra is Ghana's largest city and economic center. It has three major wetlands, and according to Ghana's Environmental Protection Agency, they provide residents with "unimaginable benefits"— among them erosion and flood control, clean water, and a greenbelt that regulates the city's microclimate. As important sites for eco-tourism and as scenic spots for the city's hotels and beach resorts, the wetlands support commerce and employment. They also support the city's poorest residents, who use the wetlands for fishing, crabbing, the provision of raw materials such as raffia and salt for cottage industries, traditional medicines, and dry-season vegetable farming. As Accra has grown, however, its wetlands have been threatened by development, pollution, overexploitation, siltation, and loss of biodiversity and aesthetic values. The city has managed these problems by instituting integrated management strategies that recognize the value of wetlands and ensure enforcement of building regulations and pollution control. The approach has included the designation of two Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites); management systems on the sites; development of Coastal Sensitivity Mapping; delineation of greenbelts to stop urban sprawl; and the creation of awareness programs to encourage residents to help conserve the wetlands.

Growth Corridor Plans in Melbourne
Melbourne is Australia's second-largest city, with a current population of more than 4 million. It is growing rapidly and expected to reach 6 million over the next 30 years. In response to this growth, a metropolitan planning strategy is being prepared that will not only manage growth but ensure that Melbourne sustains its broadly valued infrastructure, services, cultural attractions, and diverse natural settings. The city's Growth Area Authority—an independent body that works in partnership with local councils, developers, and the Victorian Government to help create sustainable, well-serviced communities—is developing four Growth Corridor Plans. Each plan will create new communities planned around housing, jobs, transportation, town centers, open spaces, and key infrastructure, taking into account impacts on biodiversity and how to plan for better integration of nature and people. New communities will benefit from an integrated plan that provides for a distinctive character and amenities and that preserves and enhances existing biodiversity values. By guiding development in a sustainable manner, the plans aim to reduce carbon and other footprints.

Durban's Metropolitan Open Space System - D'MOSS
Durban, South Africa, is located in a global biodiversity hotspot and has been committed to sustainable development for decades. The Durban Metropolitan Open Space System (D'MOSS) is a plan that identifies key areas that support biodiversity and supply ecosystem services. Although D'MOSS was initiated in the 1970s and has appeared in strategic plans since the early 1990s, Durban's town planning schemes were developed with little environmental input and often conflict with strategic plans, environmental policy, and law. To address this problem, D'MOSS was included in the schemes in 2010 as a controlled development layer, a first for a South African city. Despite the underlying zoning, development may not occur within D'MOSS without first obtaining environmental authorization or support from the municipality, which may or may not be given. Where it is given, it may be subject to significant controls to ensure that biodiversity and ecosystem services are not degraded. This effort has been seen by some as curtailing property rights, but others see positive spin-offs—for example, the city's Treasury and Real Estates Departments can now consider potential environmental restrictions when property taxes are calculated on vacant land.

Image source: Siemens Press

The URBIS initiative enables partners to address the challenges and opportunities entailed with governing and managing urban biospheres, in a concerted, synergistic manner. It connects acclaimed scientific researchers, foresighted policy-makers, visionary planners and environmental practitioners from across the world.

Urbanized WWF Ecoregions

Figure 1: Urbanized WWF Ecoregions
Currently, 29 of the world's 825 ecoregions have over one-third of their area urbanized, and these 29 ecoregions are the only home of 213 endemic terrestrial vertebrate species. Recent analyses suggest that 8% of terrestrial vertebrate species on the IUCN Red List are imperiled largely because of urban development. By 2030, 15 additional ecoregions are expected to lose more than 5% of their remaining undeveloped area, and they contain 118 vertebrate species found nowhere else. Of the 779 rare species with only one known population globally, 24 are expected to be impacted by urban growth.
Source: The implications of current and future urbanization for global protected areas and biodiversity conservation (2008)

Durban

Figure 2: Durban
Durban, South Africa, is located in a global biodiversity hotspot and has been committed to sustainable development for decades. The Durban Metropolitan Open Space System (D'MOSS) is a plan that identifies key areas that support biodiversity and supply ecosystem services. Although D'MOSS was initiated in the 1970s and has appeared in strategic plans since the early 1990s, Durban's town planning schemes were developed with little environmental input and often conflict with strategic plans, environmental policy, and law. To address this problem, D'MOSS was included in the schemes in 2010 as a controlled development layer, a first for a South African city.
Photo: Digital Globe / Google Earth

Melbourne Growth Cooridors

Figure 3: Melbourne Growth Cooridors
Melbourne is Australia's second-largest city, with a current population of more than 4 million. It is growing rapidly and expected to reach 6 million over the next 30 years. In response to this growth, a metropolitan planning strategy is being prepared that will not only manage growth but ensure that Melbourne sustains its broadly valued infrastructure, services, cultural attractions, and diverse natural settings. The city's Growth Area Authority—an independent body that works in partnership with local councils, developers, and the Victorian Government to help create sustainable, well-serviced communities—is developing four Growth Corridor Plans.
Photo: Digital Globe / Google Earth

Lisbon

Figure 4: Lisbon
"Lisbon Biodiversity 2020" aims to protect and enhance Lisbon's biodiversity. Eighteen percent of the city's area is seminatural. Of its 2,800 plant species, fewer than 10 percent are native, but so are 26 of its 28 mammals. At least 148 species of birds can be found in the city, including 14 threatened species.
Photo: Digital Globe / Google Earth

Rouge Park

Figure 5: Rouge Park
In 2012, the Canadian government committed to permanently protecting much of the area by establishing Canada's first urban National Park in the Rouge. Rouge National Park has the potential to not only safeguard the Rouge's immense natural capital (green space and farmland); it will create opportunities for millions of nearby residents, including diverse communities of new Canadians, to explore a nearby wilderness gem.
The purpose of this study is to estimate the economic value of the ecosystem services and benefits provided by various types of ecosystems and land uses found within the region.
According to a recent report, the Rouge and its surrounding watersheds provide an estimated $115.6 million ($2,247 per hectare) in non-market economic benefits for residents in the Greater Toronto Area each year. The future Rouge National Park, which includes lands within the existing Rouge Park, is the ecological engine of the region and alone provides at least $12.5 million ($2,239) in annual benefits. Within the total study area (i.e., all three watersheds that support and surround the proposed new National Park), forests provide the greatest value at $41.2 million per year, wetlands provide an annual value of $34.9 million, and idle agricultural land provides $18.2 million per year. Wetlands provide the greatest value per hectare, worth, on average, $9,648 per hectare annually, whereas croplands provide the least non-market value at $378 on average per hectare annually.
Photo: Digital Globe / Google Earth

Green Belt of Vitoria-Gasteiz

Figure 6: Green Belt of Vitoria-Gasteiz
Its extensive green urban peripheral area that makes up the Green Belt allows nature to integrate in the city, improves biodiversity and fosters the leisure, education and environmental awareness of its inhabitants. The Green Belt comprises several peripheral parks and ecological corridors between these, 30% of which are reforested with native species. The Green Belt also includes blue zones, areas of lakes and wetlands, which contain rich and dynamic ecosystems ranging from upland forest, fringing wetland and aquatic vegetation to open bodies of water, providing habitats for a variety of local flora and fauna. It includes the Salburua wetland, which as a result of its successful restoration, has been declared a "Ramsar Site" and "Community Importance Zone". This wetland will be integrated in the Natura 2000 Network as one of the most relevant continental wetlands.
Photo: Digital Globe / Google Earth / City of Vitoria-Gasteiz