When it comes to biodiversity, there is a train of thought that cities don't have muc to offer. However, through inclusive and effective urban planning, the potential for flourishing urban flora and fauna could match countryside counterparts.
Half of the human population lives in an urban ecosystem, often crammed into a very tiny part of land surface which just amounts approximately to 5 percent of the total earth area. Humans and human-made structures dominate these ecosystems and what remains is enough room for green spaces and wild-life to thrive in theses urban areas. Cities of the future have the potential to embrace the ecology of their local landscape.
A report from the Field Study Council states that in these green spaces, you will find many of the habitats you would expect to see in the countryside such as grassland and woodland, and even freshwater and coastal habitats. Gardens and allotments can contain several habitats all concentrated into a small area.
To put it simply, urban ecosystems are the cities, towns, and urban strips which are constructed by humans to support the growing population as well as the infrastructure. These ecosystems play an important role in human and environmental health, they are vital to the health of the city and its people.
Major advantages of conserving urban ecosystem (apart from conserving biodiversity) is that they help with:
- temperature control
- air filtration
- moisture absorption and control of water flow
- reducing noise levels
Making visible the ecological processes that support life is an important part of this emerging landscape. Mr. John T. Lyle in his article on Urban Ecosystems writes about the day-to-day experiences of a young girl who gets an opportunity to grow up in a healthy urban ecosystem
The child who grows up in a regenerative city of the 21st century will know very well where the water she drinks comes from and where her wastes go. She will have an inner feeling for the atmospheric fluxes that make cool and warm places, and she will know how food grows and in what season. All this will be part of her daily experience. She will also know that the same landscape that accomplishes all this provides a place to run, to play hide-and-seek or baseball, and to ride her bicycle to the grocery store. In the same landscape, she will see birds and squirrels and snakes, all as inhabitants of the same world she lives in.
He further mentions that in the cities of the future, the ecological landscape becomes the unifying, integrated point of urban form, rather than being a decorative addition. Everything is connected and, within an urban ecosystem, this connection is emphasised: the water which falls upon our houses and streets as rain runs out through pipes and channels into the nearest bay or river and at the same time these channels also transport water back to the cities from the distant landscapes.
Recently in Ahmedabad, teams from seven cities in India got together to a meet at the Centre for Environment Education (CEE) as a part of the Supporting Urban Sustainability (SUS) program. The groups identified the local issues and chalked out a path to solve them with national and international help.
Urban green spaces are going to become increasingly important to wildlife as well as to human existence. It's vital that we understand and conserve them.
Author: Ajay Pal Singh Chabba/ RESET editorial
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