2017 Working Group: Urban Biodiversity

Urban Biodiversity

Marina AlbertiMarsha and Jay Glazer Endowed University Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning, University of Washington
Isaac Brown, Doctoral Student, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California at Los Angeles
Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon

Cities are increasingly working to support native biodiversity in the built environment. The reasons range from protecting and restoring regional ecosystems to the benefits of access to nature for urban residents. In this working group, we explored how the goals and reasons for promoting urban diversity vary across the landscapes and cultures of the Pacific Rim. What should we be attempting to achieve, and where and how? What are the limiting factors? Through what frameworks or standards might we guide decisions about the goals we set in different landscape contexts? What are the key factors that limit our ability to reduce ecological harm from cities, and is it even conceivable that cities can contribute to regional biodiversity rather than diminishing it?

The context:
Traditional regulatory drivers and research emphasize protected species, sensitive ecosystems, and more natural environments, while urban biodiversity initiatives that focus on novel ecosystem types are advancing with limited scientific basis or best practice frameworks. Often under the umbrellas of sustainability planning, infrastructure upgrades, or architecture and urban design, decision makers are tackling challenges that include understanding urban biodiversity patterns and processes; enhancing designed landscapes from site to regional scales; increasing equitable access to nature and native biodiversity; balancing increased density and connections with nature; and applying emerging design paradigms like biophilia and biomimicry. This working group attempted to bridge ecological sciences, urban design and planning, and social sciences to explore emerging challenges facing researchers, practitioners and decision makers.