Biodiversity: even cities can promote and protect it

Bio-variety is in danger and with it life on Earth: a lot can be done in urban centers, welcoming many varieties of animal and plant species

Bee house: a way to promote biodiversity in the city
Cities can become friends with pollinating insects, so as to promote local biodiversity. Bug hotels or bee houses are a great way to give rest and shelter to these precious insects (Photo: dies-Irae/iStock)

La biodiversity it is the very essence of life. Without variety of animal and plant speciesin fact, the existence of all living organisms would be greatly compromised.
And today the risk is more real than ever: human activities have an impact on ecosystems, urbanization takes away space from nature and the rate of animals and plants is in sharp decline, so much so that, according to a United Nations report, over one million species are at risk of extinction.
The problem is more current than ever and destined to worsen over time if they are not implemented concrete policies for the protection of nature.
And while waiting for governments and institutions to act, there is no shortage of examples of how the protection of biodiversity may also be a prerogative of urban centers.
Some commendable examples come from “World Economic Forum”.
But before moving on to virtuous projects, it is good to reveal the cards on the table, understand the context in which we operate and the reasons why ideas of this type should actually be a daily practice.

A medieval water wheel to recreate biodiversity

Protecting Biodiversity: An Illustration
Biodiversity is in sharp decline: just think that according to Our World In Data the presence of mammals in nature has decreased by 85% since the advent of human civilization: the main causes are to be found in the loss of habitat and overhunting (Image :iStock)

What is biodiversity and why is it important

Understand what is biodiversity it will make us understand why it is essential to guarantee life on Earth.
To give us the definition of the term is the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which defines biodiversity as the variety and variability of living organisms and the ecological systems in which they live, highlighting that it includes diversity at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels.
Without the variety that distinguishes life on Earth, human survival would be in serious danger. The bio-variety, in fact, is a real one natural capital connected to the concept of ecosystem service, or the resources that man needs to live.
Which example will be useful to understand the scope of the problem.
According to the State Of The World Trees report, a third of the trees are at risk of extinction: yet trees, woods and forests play a fundamental role for the planet, influencing the production of soil, nutrients and the global climate.
Or again, the number of bees has decreased from 30 to 90% depending on the areas of the world: yet the work of bees affects over 75% of food crops, and their disappearance endangers global food security.
Il Living Planet Index, of which we report a graph below, presents an alarming situation to say the least.

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Living planet index and biodiversity loss
The Living Planet Index measures the status of bio-diversity on the planet and takes into consideration population trends of terrestrial, aquatic and marine vertebrate species (Image: Our World in Data)

Human activities and loss of biodiversity

The human population increases in number and, in recent centuries, has mostly moved to the city.
2007 was the year in which the number of people settled in urban centers exceeded that of people located in rural areas, and 2050 will be the year in which – estimates suggest – about 70 per cent of human beings will live in a city context.
Population growth and urbanization they are two sides of the same coin, or rather of the same problem.
Because the increase in urban areas - in the absence of effective solutions - will take away space from nature with the consequence that the anthropized space (as it is conceived today) will not give the possibility to plant and animal species to thrive, thus putting life at risk on earth.

From Milan to Monza the first metropolitan greenway in the world?

Urbanization trends over time
Urbanization is strongly connected to the loss of biodiversity: cities expand and consequently the available space in which plant and animal species can thrive (Image: Our World in Data) decreases

Biodiversity can also thrive in cities

Yet things can change: even cities can become a treasure trove of biodiversity for plants and animals. And if we have already talked about urban forestation with XZERO City in Kuwait and with the new vertical forest by Stefano Boeri that is being built in Dubai, there are also many other projects around the world that aim to bring nature back to the city, including the plants and animals that inhabit it.
As anticipated, the "World Economic Forum", illustrating well four projects. Singapore, for example, asks for the help of its citizens through an App created to map the plants and animals that live in the area, so as to make urban planning decisions aimed at their protection.
In the Netherlands, however, the municipality of Eindhoven has asked its citizens not to remove fallen leaves from trees in parks and private gardens both to protect insects and to save water in the summer, because greenery helps the soil stay hydrated.
In Melbourne, Australia, on the other hand, the "Wildlife Gardening" project was born, which aims to make gardens (public and private) a home for wild animals too: this translates into the planting of native trees, shrubs where insects and birds can take refuge, in the creation of ponds suitable for frogs and small amphibians and so on.
The Canadian city of Montreal, on the other hand, aims to explain to the population why even dead trees can be a treasure that should not be eliminated, as they can give shelter to animal species and host a large variety of microorganisms.

City tree, urban furniture that fights pollution

Biodiversity: the MiMo route from Milan to Monza via Sesto San Giovanni: the Lombard greenway hypothesized for 2030 could create a real sanctuary for the most vulnerable animal and plant species in the heart of Brianza
The MiMo route from Milan to Monza via Sesto San Giovanni: the Lombard greenway hypothesized for 2030 could create a real sanctuary for the most vulnerable animal and plant species in the heart of Brianza

Bio-diversity in urban centers is (also) a matter of choices

Promote biodiversity in the city it is not only possible, but also desirable.
And while waiting for the concept of urbanization to become intrinsically greener, the projects described above show how much can be done with little effort on the part of institutions and private individuals.
And single subjects can do their utmost in many ways: installing birdhouses and bugs hotels, planting bee-friendly flowers and using hedges that give rest to insects instead of the usual bare concrete walls, not mowing the English lawn but rather make it a haven of life and biodiversity.

From Milan Cadorna to Malpensa, a cycle route surrounded by nature

Biodiversity: in XZERO city Nature will be integrated within the urban fabric: a fundamental strategy to mitigate the increase in temperatures and the phenomenon of heat islands; this, then, will also increase the biodiversity of the city, essential for making the entire urban center resilient (Photo: URB)
In XZERO city Nature will be integrated within the urban fabric: a fundamental strategy to mitigate the increase in temperatures and the phenomenon of heat islands; this, then, will also increase the biodiversity of the city, essential for making the entire urban center resilient (Photo: URB)

Infrastructure and roads can also help

But much must also be done from an urban planning point of view, since even the streets we travel on every day can become allies in the fight against the loss of flora and fauna in the city, becoming thelink between the city and sustainability.
Le green areas, for example, they can become a microcosm in which nature and man coexist in harmony.
Increase them and make them environmentally friendly also from the point of view of walkable areas is a big step forward: promoting the natural and draining floors, for example, allows not to distort the nature of the soil, to favor the water cycle and not to create toxic waste for the environment.
There are many companies that, today, strong in their mission, are trying to change the world of roads by making it greener.
Solid Earth is among these and, one floor after another, aims to make more green our cities too, making them a positive and healthy environment for plants and animals too.

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The "Fili" cycle and green highway between Milan Cadorna and Malpensa

The appeal to the world of Stefano Boeri and the creators of the first vertical forest

Biodiversity: natural Terra Solida flooring, which does not pollute and therefore promotes biodiversity
Choosing natural and eco-friendly flooring means not polluting the environment and, therefore, promoting the growth of the living species that inhabit it (Photo: Terra Solida)