Urban Biodiversity is the variety and richness of living organisms including genetic variation and habitat diversity found in and on the edge of human settlements. This biodiversity ranges from the rural fringe to the urban core. At the landscape and habitat level it includes - remnants of natural landscapes like leftovers of primeval forests, traditional agricultural landscapes like meadows, areas of arable land, urban–industrial landscapes like city centers, residential areas, industrial parks, railway areas, formal parks and gardens, brown fields.
Urban biodiversity enables ecosystems services (pollination by bees, birds for fruit and crop production, water supply, flood control, etc.). We have lost these in cities but with new and expanding initiatives to green the cities (e.g., urban parks), these ecosystem services are coming back. That’s why Promoting the maintenance of natural areas within the city to educate the public and future generations is very vital.
1. HEALTH and WELL-BEING
Access to green space improves our mental wellbeing, reducing the need to treat for anxiety and mental health conditions. Depressive disorders are now the foremost cause of disability in middle- and high-income countries4 and can be precursors for chronic physical health problems. Green area accessibility has been linked to reduced mortality and improved perceived and actual general health. Psychological benefits of green space increase with biodiversity and a green window increases job satisfaction and reduces stress.
2. TEMPERATURE AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Large parks containing many trees with wide canopies, and minimal paving, reduce the urban heat island effect the most; Woodland areas that are managed to minimize tree mortality, and do not require intensive irrigation or fertilizer use, are the biggest sinks of carbon
3. AIR QUALITY
Urban air pollution consists of tiny particles, known as particulate matter and gases such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide and Sulphur dioxide. These pollutants are formed mainly as a result of vehicle and industrial emissions. Trees are the most effective type of vegetation for capturing pollutants, but in street canyons shorter vegetation or “green walls” are more beneficial for local air quality.
4. FLOODING AND WATER QUALITY
In urban areas, the impermeable materials used for roads and pavements mean that rain is not absorbed and remains on the surface. During periods of heavy rainfall this water accumulates and when the drainage capacity of the area is exceeded, flooding will occur. Urban green spaces store and filter water, reducing the risk of flooding and improving water quality in streams, lakes and rivers.
5. WILDLIFE AND HABITATS
Interconnected green spaces composed of native tree and shrub species, with less intensive management, offer the greatest benefits for wildlife. Urban green spaces can act as “wildlife corridors”, linking together larger parks, and providing links to rural areas on the outskirts of towns and cities. This facilitates the movement of animals, birds and insects between individual green spaces and prevents the fragmentation and isolation of wildlife
6. ECONOMIC IMPACTS
The creation, maintenance and management of green space also generates employment opportunities, and may have indirect benefits to local economies by encouraging further investment and property development in the area. Residential and commercial properties overlooking green spaces are valued around 5-7% higher than equivalent properties elsewhere.
Leisure visits outside of the own living or working environment, typically longer-term stays. Apart from potentially promoting the health and wellbeing of visitors, tourism is also of interest due to its contributions to the local economy.
8. FOOD FOR ALL
urban farming takes advantage of underutilized spaces on the ground and overhead to bring nutrition to people. Urban agriculture is an important source of income for a substantial number of urban households. In addition to income from sales of surpluses, farming households save on household expenditure by growing their own food.
URBAN BIODIVERSITY ASSESSMENT
Biodiversity Assessment is critical in the development of a local ecological profile and plans which would guide in the conservation of biodiversity in urban areas. The management and development of urban biodiversity have three (3) stages: assessment, management planning, and implementation and monitoring
Biodiversity planning, management, and development will provide for a more strategic framework/perspective for assessing the current portfolio of an area and serve as a guide for the formulation of the urban biodiversity conservation plan. This will ensure that the management strategies and programs will address the issues, concerns, threats, and concerns in the area for the overall improvement and achievement in relation to biodiversity conservation.
Assessment stage has 3 phases:
Pre-assessment Phase. In this phase, the local ownership and acceptance of the role of stakeholders, not only in the conservation but also in the development and implementation of local actions, is established. Activities include reinforcing local understanding on urban biodiversity, preparation for the urban biodiversity assessment, and the Urban Biodiversity Index. As this is the planning phase, there should already be an initial determination of the ecosystem services provided by the existing biodiversity to focus the assessment to the services that need to be highlighted/improved. Creation of composite team should also be done during this phase to plan and determine preparatory activities prior to the biodiversity assessment.
On-site Assessment Phase. This is the actual assessment of the urban biodiversity. It is important to conduct area profiling, flora and fauna assessments, and charting/spatial mapping using existing tools to determine the overall situation of biodiversity in the area. It is the phase where the biodiversity management and determination of the Urban Biodiversity Index will be based.
Post Assessment Phase. This is where all the findings including technical reports, outputs of consultations, list/inventory of flora and fauna, maps with zoning, and proposed management options (strategic action plan) and monitoring plan are integrated and analyzed. Further, to monitor the health of the urban biodiversity, the assessment should be done at least every three (3) years or in time of the midterm review of the local development plans and the UBI as indicator of the state of the urban biodiversity.