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      BIODIVERSITY AND URBAN DESIGN: SEEKING AN INTEGRATED SOLUTION

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      Journal of Green Building

      College Publishing

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          INTRODUCTION

          “The cities of the 21st century are where human destiny will be played out, and where the future of the biosphere will be determined. There will be no sustainable world without sustainable cities.”

          —Herbert Girardet

          Life on earth is remarkably diverse. Plants, animals, and microorganisms, in response to local and regional environmental conditions have created distinct adaptations that collectively form the interconnected “web of life.” This biological diversity and its associated ecological processes represent the planet’s “natural capital” that underpins human activities, providing us with the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the materials that clothe and shelter us, countless medical remedies, and the cathartic psychological relief green spaces provide for us. This biological diversity also helps shape our “sense of place.”

          There is a growing awareness that the health of the planet’s biological diversity will, to a large degree, determine our own destiny. There is also a growing sense of urgency that biodiversity requires substantially more protection than has occurred to date (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). The Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), adopted by over 150 countries, provided a strategy for addressing the decline in biodiversity around the world. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development identified the centrality of biodiversity and the importance of setting conservation targets. And the IUCN’s Countdown 2010 program was established to help monitor progress toward stemming biodiversity loss.

          In terms of urban biodiversity the Curitiba Declaration on Cities and Biodiversity (2007) affirmed the importance of biodiversity within cities, signalling the need “to integrate biodiversity concerns into urban planning and development, with a view to improving the lives of urban residents . . .” Yet, while enhancing biodiversity within cities is a laudable goal, it is a daunting challenge. The scale and pace of urban growth is responsible for the radical transformation of the spatial configuration and ecological processes of local and regional landscapes around the world ( Alberti 2005, Dale et al. 2000, McDonnell et al. 1997, Dramstad et al. 1996, McDonnel and Pickett 1990). Natural areas are fragmented. Indigenous fauna are marginalised and extirpated. Hydrologic cycles are irrevocably altered while impervious surfaces increase. Productive soils, centuries in the making, are contaminated, compacted, and/or removed.

          One key challenge in addressing urban biodiversity is overcoming the misunderstanding that biodiversity conservation is an optional field of action, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Few local governments have dedicated resources to establishing planning frameworks and implementation strategies to explicitly address biodiversity. This complacency can be attributed, in part, to the complexity and abstraction as to what constitutes biodiversity. Consequently urban planners, elected officials, the development community, and the public continue to focus on land use, zoning, transportation, and infrastructure in isolation of their ecological consequences.

          Fortunately in North America some local governments have begun to engage the complexities of biodiversity conservation by developing regionally integrated spatial frameworks based in large part on Landscape Ecology’s patchcorridor-matrix principles ( Forman 1995). Simultaneously, proactive site planning and design practices at the neighbourhood and site scale are including biodiversity conservation as an essential program objective. Collectively these initiatives begin to illustrate how urban design can conserve and enhance biodiversity across a region.

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          Most cited references 22

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          Ecological networks and their fragility.

          Darwin used the metaphor of a 'tangled bank' to describe the complex interactions between species. Those interactions are varied: they can be antagonistic ones involving predation, herbivory and parasitism, or mutualistic ones, such as those involving the pollination of flowers by insects. Moreover, the metaphor hints that the interactions may be complex to the point of being impossible to understand. All interactions can be visualized as ecological networks, in which species are linked together, either directly or indirectly through intermediate species. Ecological networks, although complex, have well defined patterns that both illuminate the ecological mechanisms underlying them and promise a better understanding of the relationship between complexity and ecological stability.
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            The Effects of Urban Patterns on Ecosystem Function

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              Messy Ecosystems, Orderly Frames

               Joan Nassauer (1995)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                jgrb
                Journal of Green Building
                College Publishing
                1552-6100
                1943-4618
                1943-4618
                Spring 2009
                : 4
                : 2
                : 23-38
                Author notes

                1Sustainability Director, PWL Partnership Landscape Architects, kconnery@ 123456pwl.com .

                Article
                jgb.4.2.23
                10.3992/jgb.4.2.23
                ©2009 by College Publishing. All rights reserved.

                Volumes 1-7 of JOGB are open access and do not require permission for use, though proper citation should be given. To view the licenses, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

                Page count
                Pages: 16
                Product
                Categories
                INDUSTRY CORNER

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