More biodiverse cities would help protect endangered species and human populations from climate change; if only Climate Action Plans (CAP) were calibrated to do so, a new report states.
A study of city Climate Action Plans (CAPs) found a surprising lack of biodiversity goals. While most CAPs contain goals for green space and clean water, only 18% have specific plans to protect and grow biodiversity, a rich patchwork of life, both for the aid of endangered species and city dwellers.
There's an obvious blind spot when biodiversity is not seen as an urban issue, write the authors of the report which appears in the journal “Geo” (from the Institute of British Geographers).
“While some city adaptation responses may exacerbate threats to species and ecosystems — for example, the construction of sea walls to protect against sea‐level rise, the large‐scale diversion of water, and planting of non‐native forestry species — we argue that adaptation‐driven urban development does not need to be bad news for already imperiled species and ecosystems.”
Their analysis on the geographic distributions of 271 threatened species which overlap areas covered by the 80 city climate change adaptation plans is groundbreaking.
The authors do celebrate the CAPs that recommend actions on biodiversity, such as Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, which has targeted reductions in water pollution, and Lagos, Nigeria calling for a broad swath of protected green space surrounding river corridors.
“Watershed protection activities could contribute significantly to biodiversity by reducing polluted runoff, and by improving water flow within these areas,” they observe.
Cities need to do more “cloudburst management” — an emerging, urban watershed practice. It specifies planting flood-tolerant trees and restoring native habitat in areas of a city prone to flood.
While Cleveland doesn’t appear in the report (a missed opportunity since its CAP was published in 2013, during the study period), the emphasis on biodiversity is important as the city continues its process to update its CAP. Perhaps even an analysis of the endangered plants and animals that overlap the Cleveland CAP geography would be of service in setting specific biodiversity goals.
The lack of biodiversity is evident in CAPs and urban climate resilience plans, Anthropocene Magazine agrees.
“There’s also a danger that, as urban nature is engineered without much thought of biodiversity, the very concept of nature could be subtly redefined for city-dwellers. ‘Due to our unavoidably anthropogenic perspective on most things,’ says Butt, ‘we usually only see things in terms of how they relate to us.’ Rather than containing rich communities of life, nature might become a utilitarian aesthetic.”
Bottom line, if biodiversity goals were written into Climate Action Plans, it would have the potential to add ecosystem function equal in land size to that of half of all national parks.