Making space for the birds and the bees improves quality of life

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 8.11.43 PMCity planners need practical tools to incorporate the different types of knowledge required to plan for urban biodiversity and ecosystem services. Just as important is the need to understand how urban biodiversity shapes, and is shaped, by quality of life aspects.

The importance and role of biodiversity in cities suffers from an image problem explained graduate student Jennifer Rae Pierce from Cornell Univesity, USA, at a practitioners workshop showcasing two new planning tools for ecosystem services in urban areas.

“We need to start thinking of biodiversity and ecosystem services as infrastructure for urban areas just like other types of infrastructure,” explained Pierce, author of one of the toolkits. “There needs to be strong awareness and support for functions like clean water, clean air, and shade etc.”

In planning for biodiversity Pierce also argues that this process needs to be better integrated with other local planning processes. Her toolkit attempts to address this by first ‘diagnosing’ the level of integration of biodiversity planning within the organisation and then providing advice and resources to address the barriers to a more integrated approach.

“This tool aims to improve the effectiveness of planners through tips, real world examples, resources and templates for easy implementation,” said Pierce.

A second toolkit presented by post doctoral research Sophie Schetke from the University of Bonn used multi criteria analysis to help city planners to understand links between urban design – in particular urban density – and quality of life and included the development of an indicator framework to assist planners to measure progress.

The toolkits are outputs of the URBES project ( an initiative of ICLEI and the Stockholm Resilience Centre which aims to combine researcher and practitioner knowledge to translate science into action.

Given however the fairly nascent state of biodiversity planning for urban spaces, critical questions remain about how to measure and monitor biodiversity as well as to better understand its interactions with measures of human wellbeing.

Written by Anne Leitch