Healthy and functioning natural ecosystems are critical for cities to thrive. Pressures from urbanization and climate change on the natural systems that sustain cities are increasing rapidly, making the protection of these urban natural assets all the more urgent.
“The prosperity of cities critically relies on the ability of regional, city and municipal governments to protect and restore nature’s benefits in order to make cities healthy and vibrant places to work, live and play” says Kobie Brand, Director of ICLEI’s Cities Biodiversity Center. “Now, more than ever, there is a need to unite and embrace nature and to reconnect communities with nature.”
Local and regional governments in Tanzania, Brazil and India are working with ICLEI through the INTERACT Bio project to integrate ecosystem management into urban planning. These cities have taken the first step towards protecting their natural ecosystems by conducting natural asset mapping processes and raising awareness of the critical role that nature and natural ecosystems play in supporting healthy and balanced urban life.
Bringing nature to life on the page
The first phase of natural asset mapping produces a technical analysis of land cover and ecosystems but the cities engaged in these mapping processes also aim to raise awareness of the importance of nature within the community and motivate change.
The process of illustrating the natural assets of the city helps bring the importance of this technical data on ecosystems to life. Rogério Menezes, Municipal Secretary for Green, Environment and Sustainable Development in the city of Campinas spoke about the value of the natural asset mapping process for the city, saying, “The map translates technical information into a more pleasant and easy to understand language, showing the importance of these services – such as water production, water cycle regulation, leisure, tourism, food supply and support for the natural habitat – to the broader population.”
Menezes is also hopeful that the accessibility of the illustrated map on the Campinas Connectivity Area will in fact help the city implement the connectivity area more effectively. “The dissemination of the map also increases the possibilities of implementing the connectivity area through linear parks and ecological corridors and opens up participation of more actors in the process.”
Dar es Salaam is also focusing on how the natural asset map can bring key actors together, especially within government. “Our natural asset mapping process has shown how nature’s benefits protect and sustain our city and make it liveable,” said Sipora Liana, Director of Dar es Salaam’s City Council. “It will help us prioritize our investment in urban nature and also enable Dar es Salaam’s five municipalities to direct their plans to incorporate nature’s contributions to enhance urban quality of life, livelihoods and the economy.”
Biodiversity highlights in Brazil, India and Tanzania
These illustrated natural asset maps are a collection of snapshots of urban nature showing that while nature and biodiversity are beautifully diverse around the world, natural assets are always critical to the healthy functioning of urban systems.
INTERACT Bio is implemented by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through the International Climate Initiative (IKI).