Impact of rapidly expanding cities on biodiversity a major concern

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


This is all about concrete jungles. This week (15 October) saw the launch of the ‘Cities and Biodiversity Outlook‘ (CBO), prepared by the CBD, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), during a two-day summit on ‘cities for life’, at COP-11. The CBO provides the first global synthesis of how urbanisation impacts biodiversity and ecosystem services in terrestrial, freshwater and marine systems.

A more detailed scientific analysis and assessment of the links between urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services, the Global Urbanization, Biodiversity, and Ecosystems – Challenges and Opportunities is scheduled to be published as a book in 2013, with in-depth coverage of regional and local case study assessments.  Meanwhile, COP-11 gave a peek at a case study of  India and its fifth largest city Bangalore.

The Cities and Biodiversity Outlook addresses the impact of rapidly growing cities.   Photo credit for Curubita city, Brazil : J.M.Guimarães, Wikipedia

An estimated 60 per cent of the world’s people will live in cities by 2030, with most of the urban changes projected to take place in Asia particularly China and India.India’s massive urbanisation trend indicates half of it would become urban by 2050. It already has three of the world’s ten largest cities and three of the world’s fastest growing cities. This in turns means clearing of more forests, wetlands, and agricultural systems, habitat degradation and fragmentation, says the report.

Cities present both challenges and opportunities, the India report released on 15 October says. They become nodes of spread of invasive alien species, and are witness to decline in water bodies, mangroves and native birds species diversity.

Biodiversity and ecosystem restoration has tremendous potential, with urban forests reducing air pollution and heating, and wetlands and lakes increase groundwater recharge and stabilise soil. Besides, ecosystems in slums were found to provide other services such as adding nutrition to diet, herbal medicines.

The section on policy and action says cities have a large potential to generate innovations and governance tools and can – and must – take the lead in sustainable development.  And ecosystems services must be integrated in urban policy and planning, as increasing the biodiversity of urban food systems can enhance food and nutrition security

Cities are sites of continuous exchange of practical, traditional and scientific knowledge, it says.

Hope they don’t go down the drain.

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 

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