Using Green Infrastructure to Battle
Biodiversity is declining due to pollution, land use changes, overexploitation, invasive species, and climate change. About one million species may face extinction within decades, with significant declines in land-based and marine habitats. Wildlife populations have decreased by 60% in the past four decades. This trend may be the sixth mass extinction, comparable to previous catastrophic events where up to 95% of species were wiped out.
To address these concerns, it is crucial to protect natural areas, restore damaged habitats, and enhance green spaces. Urban areas can play a significant role in environmental preservation. However, achieving a sustainable balance between human needs and natural ecosystems can be a challenging task. This is where green infrastructure can prove to be a valuable solution. Integrating green spaces into urban environments to promote biodiversity and support ecological services often utilized existing space, such as unused rooftops and bare walls.
With the world population estimated to surpass 10 billion by 2050, innovative methods are needed to meet the growing food production needs in both urban and rural areas. Urban farming is a rising trend that converts urban spaces into agricultural landscapes to produce local food and enhance biodiversity. According to a report by Fior Markets, the global urban farming market is projected to reach $16.14 billion by 2027.
Biodiversity and Health
Biodiversity is crucial for human health, societal well-being, and productivity. The significance of biodiversity in developing treatments is evident as natural products play a valuable role in biomedical research and medicine.
Traditional medicine is utilized by approximately 60% of the population globally, which is severely affected by biodiversity loss. Furthermore, biodiversity loss and land degradation increase infectious disease risks. Deforestation, mismanaged land use, and uncontrolled urbanization strongly contribute to disease transmission. Hence, good urban planning has a direct effect on human health.
Urban interventions such as green infrastructure have been shown to accelerate patient recovery, reducing hospital stays by around 8% resulting in significant cost savings. Integrating biodiversity into construction planning may offer additional indirect benefits.
Urban Green Infrastructure Reestablishes the Natural Water Cycle
Freshwater ecosystems, like rivers, lakes, and wetlands, face significant biodiversity threats due to water demands. The loss of wetlands is staggering, with up to 95% loss. in some regions. Wetlands are "biological super-systems" known for their optimal interplay of shallow water, high nutrient content, and primary productivity, supporting diverse and abundant species communities. Additionally, over one-third of available and renewable freshwater on Earth is consumed for agriculture, industrial, and domestic uses, leading to water source contamination and public health risks. Implementing low-tech interventions such as the Greenscreen trellis systems can positively impact the water cycle in urban settings, adding biodiversity and re-establishing the natural water cycle and cooling through increased evapotranspiration.
Green Infrastructure as an Urban Network
To conserve ecosystem services, it is crucial to avoid isolating natural ecosystems as this prevents genetic exchange among populations. Building an interconnected green infrastructure network is essential in facilitating species movement.
In densely populated cities, green walls and facades have become popular for boosting green infrastructure. These vegetated vertical structures increase biodiversity, including food, shelter, and nesting habitats for urban bird populations. Additionally, they act as corridors for movement and dispersal, enhancing the stability of urban biodiversity in the face of disturbances.
By adopting a landscape-scale approach, cities can mitigate the impacts of urbanization on local ecology and maintain a thriving natural ecosystem.
Urban biodiversity is increasingly important, and we must recognize and appreciate assets such as green infrastructure, wetlands, vacant lands, gardens, cemeteries, and roadside verges. Additionally, green roofs, botanical gardens, green walls, and residential gardens contribute valuable resources. These urban assets support biodiversity and provide ecosystem services like cleaner air, natural cooling, improved health, groundwater recharge, and local food production.
By Dr. Anna Zakrisson