Science: Urban Biodiversity

The Story:

“Biodiversity” is the label for the scientific thesis, now largely a matter of consensus, that humanity’s interests are served by the flourishing of a wide range of animal and plant species around the world. The term has been in use since the mid 1980s. But there has also been a widespread intuition that biodiversity is to be secured by preserving large swatches of rural/low-population-density land where these wide ranges of wildlife can thrive. The notion that biodiversity should be, and often is, found within cities, is new.

A Tale of Two Cities:

In Kanazawa, Japan, a city of nearly half a million people, landscape architect Juan Pastor-Ivars found that the city gardens contain species of animals, plants, and insects that can no longer be found at all in the mountains and protected wildlife areas, outside the city.  Meanwhile, in Mexico, scientists have discovered that roughly 2%, of the planet’s species can be found within the borders of the country’s capital, Mexico City. Two percent is an astonishing figure for these 572 square miles.

Strange New Worlds:

These two examples suggest that humans, even when we crowd ourselves together in urban settings, are not necessarily a destructive force vis-a-vis our co-tenants on this planet. In the case of Kanazawa, Ivars has pointed out that: “Traditional Japanese gardens originated from spiritual beliefs and turned into aesthetic objects over time.” But he added, “because of a loss of these cultural values, it’s been hard to maintain and preserve [the gardens]. So our project finds a new value in these gardens: environmental value.”



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