sUrBio2050 – Assessing globally important areas for biodiversity preservation and human well-being

First meeting: 04.-07.09.2018

Thomas Elmqvist
Henrique Pereira
Rob McDonald

associated postdoc:
Andressa Vianna Mansur

iDiv member:
Jonathan Chase

Project summary:
​​Natural​ ​systems​ ​play​ ​a​ ​crucial​ ​role​ ​in​ ​maintaining​ ​the​ ​diversity​ ​of​ ​life​ ​on​ ​Earth as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​an​ ​integral​ ​role​ ​in​ ​human​ ​well-being.​ ​Urban​ ​areas​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​grow​ ​at​ ​an unprecedented​ ​rate,​ ​and​ ​by​ ​2050,​ ​70​ ​per​ ​cent​ ​of​ ​the​ ​world’s​ ​population​ ​will​ ​be​ ​urban.​ ​If unplanned,​ ​this​ ​rapid​ ​urban​ ​growth​ ​can​ ​deeply degrade​ ​natural​ ​systems,​ ​imperiling​ ​globally-significant biodiversity​, ecosystem services, ​and​ ​decreasing​ ​human​ ​well-being.​ ​Yet,​ ​natural​ ​systems​ ​are​ ​often​ ​not​ ​fully​ ​integrated into​ ​sustainable​ ​urban​ ​design​ ​and​ ​planning​ ​efforts,​ ​nor​ ​into​ ​the​ ​decisions​ ​of​ ​national​ ​and international​ ​policymakers.   If​ ​we​ ​do​ ​not adequately​ ​plan​ ​for​ ​urban​ ​growth​ ​in​ ​places​ ​of​ ​globally-significant​ ​biodiversity,​ ​the world​ ​may​ ​fail​ ​to​ ​meet​ ​its​ ​ambitious​ ​targets​ ​under​ ​the​ ​Convention​ ​on​ ​Biological​ ​Diversity.​ In addition, ​And without​ ​considering​ ​the​ ​important​ ​role​ ​natural​ ​systems​ ​play​ ​for​ ​human​ ​well-being,​ ​the international​ ​community​ ​may​ ​fail​ ​to​ ​meet​ ​its​ ​targets​ ​under​ ​UNFCCC​ ​(such​ ​as​ ​goals​ ​for​ ​climate change​ ​adaptation),​ ​the​ ​Sustainable​ ​Development​ ​Goals,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​New​ ​Urban​ ​Agenda.
While​ ​there​ ​have​ ​been​ ​pioneering​ ​projects​ ​detailing​ ​the​ ​importance​ ​of​ ​drawing​ ​linkages​ ​between growth​ ​in​ ​cities​ ​and​ ​natural​ ​systems,​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​a​ ​global​ ​and​ ​coordinated​ ​assessment​ ​of where​ ​natural​ ​systems​ ​are​ ​crucially​ ​important​ ​to​ ​protecting​ ​globally​ ​significant​ ​biodiversity​ ​or provisionding​ ​for​ ​human​ ​well-being. ​​To​ ​close​ ​this​ ​knowledge​ ​gap,​ ​Future​ ​Earth,​ ​The​ ​Nature​ ​Conservancy​ ​(TNC), and​ ​Stockholm​ ​Resilience​ ​Center​ ​(SRC),​ ​along​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Secretariat​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Convention​ ​on Biological​ ​Diversity​ ​(SCBD),​ ​SwedBio,​ and the ​International​ ​Council​ ​for​ ​Local​ ​Environmental Initiatives​ ​(ICLEI)​ ​and​ ​others,​ ​are​ ​leading​ ​an​ ​ambitious​ ​scientific​ ​assessment​ ​entitled,​ ​“Nature​ ​in the​ ​Urban​ ​Century:​ ​Global​ ​important​ ​areas​ ​for​ ​biodiversity​ ​preservation​ ​and​ ​human​ ​well-being”. Drawing​ ​on​ ​existing​ ​research,​ ​the​ ​assessment​ ​will​ ​develop​ ​and​ ​map​ ​a​ ​set​ ​of​ ​integrated​ ​indicators to​ ​guide​ ​international​, ​and​ ​national​ and local ​decision-makers​ ​focused​ ​on​ ​protecting​ ​biodiversity​ ​or​ ​human well-being as well as planning for sustainable urban development.​  Conceptually,​ ​the​ ​assessment​ ​will​ ​focus​ ​on​ ​three​ ​categories​ ​of​ ​urban​ ​impact​ ​on natural​ ​systems,​ ​each​ ​chosen​ ​to​ ​be​ ​relevant​ ​to​ ​international​ ​policy​ ​targets.
1. Natural​ ​system​ ​loss:​ ​Urban​ ​growth​ ​has​ ​direct​ ​impacts​ ​on​ ​periurban​ ​environments,​ ​as natural​ ​systems​ ​are​ ​converted​ ​to​ ​developed​ ​land​ ​uses.​ ​We​ ​will​ ​assess​ ​where​ ​natural system​ ​loss​ ​may​ ​cause:: a. Globally​ ​significant​ ​loss​ ​of​ ​biodiversity, and b. Decrease​ ​in​ ​human​ ​well-being​ ​or​ ​an​ ​increase​ ​in​ ​vulnerability​ ​to​ ​climate​ ​change and​ ​other​ ​risks.
2. Impacts​ ​on​ ​protected​ ​areas:​ ​Urban​ ​growth​ ​will​ ​surround​ ​many​ ​protected​ ​areas,​ ​potentially degrading​ ​many​ ​of​ ​their​ ​ecological​ ​functions.​ ​We​ ​will​ ​assess​ ​how​ ​increases​ ​in​ ​proximity between​ ​urban​ ​and​ ​protected​ ​areas​ ​will​ ​impact​ ​the​ ​world’s​ ​protected​ ​area​ ​system.
3. Indirect​ ​impact:​ ​Cities​ ​affect​ ​much​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Earth’s​ ​surface,​ ​through​ ​cities’​ ​“teleconnections”​ ​with the​ ​broader​ ​world​.​ ​We​ ​will​ ​assess​ ​the​ ​most​ ​important​ ​of​ ​these​ ​teleconnections,​ ​particularly focusing​ ​on​ ​natural​ ​resource​ ​and​ ​energy​ ​consumption​ ​in​ ​cities​ ​and​ ​how​ ​they​ ​affect​ ​the environment​ ​around​ ​the​ ​globe.
Using​ ​scores​ ​on​ ​the​ ​indicators​ ​for​ ​these​ ​three​ ​categories,​ ​we​ ​will​ ​identify​ ​sets​ ​of​ ​at-risk​ ​cities where​ ​urban​ ​expansion​ ​will​ ​significantly​ ​impact​ ​essential​ ​ecosystems​ ​and​ ​biodiversity​ ​will​ ​be identified.

Fernando Ascensão (InBIO - Rede de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Biologia Evolutiva); M'Lisa Colbert (Future Earth); Katie Crossman (The Nature Conservancy); Andrew Gonzalez (McGill University); Burak Guneralp (Texas A&M University); Dagmar Haase (HU Berlin and UFZ Leipzig); Maike Hamann (University of Minnesota); Oliver Hillel (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity); Kangning Huang (Yale University); David Maddox (The Nature of Cities); Robert McDonald (The Nature Conservancy); Henrique Pereira (MLU Halle-Wittenberg); Rohan Simkin (Yale University); Andressa Vianna Mansur (University of Cádiz); Brenna Walsh (Future Earth); Carly Ziter (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Meeting report

Second meeting: 30.09.- 02.10.2019

Corey Callaghan (Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW Sydney) ; Thomas Elmqvist (Stockholm Resilience Center) ; Alessandro Gentile (iDiv) ; Burak Guneralp (Texas A&M University); Dagmar Haase (HU Berlin and UFZ Leipzig) ; Perrine Hamel (Natural Capital Project Stansford) ; HyeJin Kim (iDiv) ; Jan Kuiper (Stockholm Resilience Center) ; Veronika Liebelt (iDiv) ; Ines Martins (iDiv) ; Robert McDonald (The Nature Conservancy) ; Henrique Pereira (MLU Halle-Wittenberg) ; Jose Puppim de Oliveira (Fundação Getulio Vargas São Paulo) ; Rohan Simkin (Yale University); Andressa Vianna Mansur (iDiv); Manuel Wolff (HU Berlin)

Meeting report



Mansur, A.V., McDonald, R.I., Güneralp, B., Kim, H., de Oliveira, J.A.P., Callaghan, C.T., Hamel, P., Kuiper, J.J., Wolff, M., Liebelt, V., Martins, I.S., Elmqvist, T. & Pereira, H.M. (2022) Nature futures for the urban century: Integrating multiple values into urban management. Environmental Science & Policy, 131, 46-56. See here

McDonald, R.I., Mansur, A.V., Ascensão, F. et al. (2019) Research gaps in knowledge of the impact of urban growth on biodiversity. Nature Sustainability. See here.

McDonald, R., et al. (2018). Nature in the Urban Century: A global assessment of where and how to conserve nature for biodiversity and human wellbeing. Washington, DC, The Nature Conservancy. See here.

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