Connectivity of green and blue infrastructures: living veins for biodiverse and healthy cities

World Cities Day

Today is World Cities Day, promoted by UN Habitat.

World Cities Day is focusing on sustainable and resilient cities. The UN points out that climate change and associated natural catastrophes put cities at risk, lead to increasing poverty and especially threaten slum dwellers; economic instability is also a risk for cities' sustainability. Sounds grim. To build resilience against these risks, they recommend economic diversification, democratic and participative institutional development, and investment in infrastructures (e.g. blue and green infrastructure, clean transport infrastructure). You can read more here: https://unhabitat.org/wcd-2018/unhabitat.org/wcd-2018

Fortunately, there is a lot of interest in solving these problems. BIOVEINS is of course not the only research project investigating how green and blue infrastructure and associated biodiversity affects cities and is affected by cities. Its an important topic that has attracted lots of attention. Here is a video made by another Biodiversa-funded project on biodiversity in cities, the URBES project: https://youtu.be/sODnDWTKkZY. They emphasise the practical, actionable knowledge that they passed on to the cities about how to manage their parks, and what the specific benefits are of nature in cities. We hope to do the same in BIOVEINS.

And, here are a bunch of other projects on urban biodiversity, sustainability and resilience recently funded by the European Commission; have a look at what they plan to do, maybe some are in your city:
proGIreg (http://www.progireg.eu/)
RECONNECT (https://reconnect-europe.eu/)
URBINAT (http://urbinat.eu/)
CLEVER Cities (https://twitter.com/CLEVER_Cities)
OPERANDUM (https://site.unibo.it/operandum/en)
EdiCitNET (https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/216082_de.html)

What should the priorities be for the next rounds of research on nature in cities?

But let's remember that cities are also what we, the inhabitants, make them (human inhabitants, animal inhabitants, plant inhabitants...). We don't have to wait for scientists, policy makers, and municipal workers to intervene. Many associations intervene to reuse and adapt abandoned spaces, as I discussed before in the Ruins post. Individuals can also, in many cases, adapt city structures to their own preferences and needs. I particularly like this photo series of how people personalised and humanised apartment blocks: revuesurmesure.fr/issues/habiter-des-desirs-au-projet/palmilla. The photographer combined color and black and white to show how the neighbourhood comes alive through use and modification. I would also have highlighted the plants! Guerrilla gardening is another way to do this: guerrillagardening.org. So are community gardens and allotments, which are increasing in many cities. The global engineering and design firm Arup also has done some interesting work on developing resilient cities, which you can see here:< https://www.arup.com/perspectives/design-book-resilient-cities>. They emphasise that civil society and local associations have important roles to play in maintaining sustainable and resilient cities. Individually and collectively, we can tend to and shepherd cities towards better presents and futures.

--Meredith Root-Bernstein