6 Reasons We Need Biodiversity in Urban Environments
Tuesday 6th July 2021
What is biodiversity?
The idea of biodiversity is used to describe the number and variety of organisms that inhabit our planet. Biodiversity is determined by genes, species and ecosystems that are the outcome of over 3,000 million years of evolution.
Our planet is rich in biodiversity. Currently, about 1.7 living species have been identified of Earth’s existing organisms, however, many remain undiscovered.
Why is biodiversity important?
Humans have always depended on biodiversity for their own survival. From providing biological resources such as food to delivering social benefits such as recreation, nature and human existence are deeply intertwined.
The extinction of species has always been a natural outcome of evolution. However, due to human activities, species and entire ecosystems are under a greater threat of extinction today, than ever before recorded in history.
While the growing rate of extinction is an ecological tragedy, it also has a profound effect on social and economic development. At least 40% of the world’s economy and 80% of the needs of populations in developing countries are dependent on biological resources.
Fortunately, people are waking up and making a change to recognise and embrace the power of biodiversity. Not only can enhancing biodiversity help to combat major environmental and social challenges but also, it can provide greater opportunities for human advancement.
What is the solution?
We are all part of the solution! Every year, the United Nations celebrates the International Day for Biological Diversity. In 2021, the event focused on the idea that as humans, we all have a part to play in supporting biodiversity.
To truly support biodiversity, individuals, organisations and decision-makers must understand that we each have a responsibility to fulfill when it comes to protecting our planet for future generations.
As a global community, we must all reexamine our relationships with the natural world. Despite huge advancements in technology, as a species, we are still dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our basic needs such as water, food, medicine, food, fuel and shelter.
Biodiversity in the Urban Environment
By 2050, about 68% of the world’s population is predicted to live in urban areas. As our cities grow larger, increasing amounts of natural land are replaced with agricultural and urban developments. Our cities and buildings are now predominantly compromised of concrete since they were designed to maximize space and omit vegetation, unfortunately depriving us of nature’s inherent benefits.
Fortunately, the growing trend of green infrastructure has been increasingly influencing the way we design, construct and operate our cities. More buildings are being successfully ‘greened’ around the world. Building designs are being increasingly created with green elements at their core and many existing buildings are even being retrofitted with greener features.
In the Middle East region, for instance, sustainability goals include doubling areas for parks and nature reserves to better support biodiversity.
Another way we can incorporate biodiversity into our buildings is through green roofs. A green roof is a surface partially or complete covered with a lightweight growing medium and plants, planted over a waterproofing system that can capture, store, treat and reuse water. In addition to bringing us closer to nature, the structure of a green roof basically imitates the Earth’s natural water cycle, helping us to better manage resources, save costs and of course – it provides a green haven for biodiversity amidst our concrete jungles!
6 Benefits of Biodiversity
For the construction industry, embracing biodiversity can have many benefits for both property developers and occupants of buildings.
Discover just a few benefits of biodiversity that can transform your building project to improve health, wellbeing, sustainability and costs.
Combat Climate Change
Nature-based solutions, including green roofs, can provide 37% of cost-effective CO2 mitigation. In addition, increased greenery helps to absorb excess CO2 and expel oxygen to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming and also to combat Urban Heat Island Effect and cool building temperatures.
Protect Against Flood Risks
Plants play in important role in preventing soil erosion. They make soil porous, enabling groundwater infiltration and essentially, protecting us against floods. Green roofs are also effective for stormwater management and helping to reduce flood risk by 80%.
Enhance Mental Health
As humans, we are inherently connected to nature. Connecting with nature has proven benefits for our mental wellbeing. Everything about nature, from colours to sounds to smells, helps to reduce stress and boost mood. We are now increasingly even incorporating biophilic design principles into architecture to bring the benefits of nature into our indoor spaces to improve productivity and creativity.
Support Natural Water Cycles
Integrating green infrastructure supports the natural water cycle (capture, store, treat, reuse) to improve water quantity and quality. Biodiversity helps to maintain nature’s ecosystem services, also helping to recover faster from natural disasters.
Improve Air Quality
Plants, particularly trees, play an important role in removing air pollution and thus reducing greenhouse emissions. These greenhouse gas emissions can also create warm ‘microclimates’ that cause illnesses and increase energy demands.
Maintain Food Security
Diversity in produce is essential to maintaining a healthy diet. And let’s not forget about bees! Bees are responsible for about one-third of global food production. But due to increased urban sprawl and other industrial activities, we are experiencing a rapid decline in bee populations. This example just goes to show the interconnectivity of the natural world.
Learn more about the benefits of biodiversity:
It’s important to understand that supporting biodiversity is an investment in the future. Systems that support biodiversity can not only save costs, but also help to cool climates and reduce energy demands. They can reduce flood risk and protect occupants and buildings from any related harm. They can enhance mental wellbeing and productivity in office buildings so employees perform better.
All organisms are interconnected – our planet’s operation is dependent on this harmony. Every organism has a role to play. Just like the bees, a tiny creature can have a huge impact on our ecosystem. That’s why we must continue to seek greener solutions that will support biodiversity as our cities grow.
Now, instead of concrete urban jungles, we can envision our cities as thriving, green centres that support our planet for generations to come.
For solutions that can help you enhance biodiversity for your next project, do not hesitate to contact us.