Corp Comm Connects

Improving natural systems – Urban biodiversity
June 17, 2015
By Leah Wong

Protecting the biodiversity of urban environments is a way municipalities can improve the health of their residents while building resiliency against extreme weather events.

“There are so many different angles to build the case as to why a city would want to work on managing biodiversity,” ICLEI Canada director Megan Meaney told NRU. These include health, environmental and psychological benefits associated with having natural spaces near urban dwellers. “There’s a real argument for cities to be considering biodiversity and adaptation in that decision-making process.”

Through its newest report, biodiverCITIES: A Handbook for Municipal Biodiversity Planning and Management, ICLEI Canada is seeking to help local governments create communities abundant in biodiversity.

ICLEI Canada is collecting expressions of interest from municipalities who want to work through the handbook to create biodiversity plans. Municipal staff from selected municipalities will be able to share and build off of each others’ information and experiences through the process.

There are many reasons that municipalities should make biodiversity a priority. Healthy, biodiverse cities are more resilient and less likely to have critical infrastructure damaged during extreme weather events. Protecting urban forests, which absorb carbon emissions, is one biodiversity conservation strategy that mitigates climate change.

Encouraging green infrastructure is another local planning mechanism that can be used to promote biodiversity. Meaney said a lot of biodiversity management is related to municipal decisions around land use planning.

Encouraging both natural and engineered green infrastructure is a way municipalities can promote biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change as urban intensification occurs. Municipalities can protect natural systems such as wetlands and forests and require developers to build engineered infrastructure such as stormwater ponds and green roofs.

However, making green infrastructure a priority can be difficult as municipalities continue to face financial pressures. Targeting investment to protect and enhance biodiversity can be a challenge as there is no clear funding stream from senior levels of government.