Urban conservation ecology is a fast growing field that has mainly focused on how towns and cities can support populations of plants, animals and fungi that may be declining or threatened in the surrounding rural environment. That is, the city for wildlife conservation. In a new essay in the journal Conservation Biology, written with colleagues from across the world, we argue that conservation for the city (an idea originally conceived, I believe, by Steward Pickett) should also be a focus of future research and management activities.
Conservation, or ecology, for the city in essence means that plants, animals and fungi, as well as being supported by the city (see our recent urban bees example), play a role in supporting the city itself through the provision of ecosystem services such as decomposition, flood alleviation, and crop pollination.
It’s pollinators and pollination that we particualrly focus on in this essay – here’s the abstract:
Urban ecology research is changing how we view the biological value and ecological importance of cities. Lagging behind this revised image of the city are natural resource management agencies’ urban conservation programs that historically have invested in education and outreach rather than programs designed to achieve high-priority species conservation results. This essay synthesizes research on urban bee species diversity and abundance to suggest how urban conservation can be repositioned to better align with a newly unfolding image of urban landscapes. We argue that pollinators put high-priority and high-impact urban conservation within reach. In a rapidly urbanizing world, transforming how environmental managers view the city can improve citizen engagement while exploring more sustainable practices of urbanization.
I’m happy to send the PDF to anyone who wants a copy; here’s the full citation:
Hall, D.M., Camilo, G.D., Tonietto, R.K., Ollerton, J., Ahrné, K., Arduser, M., Ascher, J.S., Baldock, K.C.R., Fowler, R.E., Frankie, G.W., Goulson, D., Gunnarsson, B., Hanley, M.E., Jackson, J.I., Langellotto, G., Lowenstein, D., Minor, E.S., Philpott, S.M., Potts, S.G., Sirohi, M.H., Spevak, E.M., Stone, G., Threlfall, C. (2016) The city as a refuge for insect pollinators. Conservation Biology (in press)
The importance of urban environments for supporting pollinator populations is a topic that I’ve covered several times on the blog, for example: “Urban pollinators for urban agriculture” and “Urban bee diversity – a new study“. It’s a subject that’s generating a lot of interest at the moment with some really exciting research being published and conservation practice taking place. However there’s clearly a lot to do if we are really to understand where pollinators are distributed across out townscapes, and how we can best manage urban habitats to support this diversity and increase their numbers – here’s a link to an interesting round table discussion on this very topic.
Recently I was invited to take part in a workshop event co-organised by Defra, NERC, and Dr Kath Baldock from Bristol University entitled: Knowledge Exchange: urban grassland management and creating space for pollinators. As well as doing a short talk which contextualised the current scientific knowledge on urban pollinators, I facilitated one of the breakout discussion sessions.
The workshop was very well attended with some 50 delegates from a wide range of organisations, including local and national authorities, businesses, NGOs, and universities. Feedback from those delegates was generally positive and most people learned something about managing urban settings for pollinators, and made some useful connections. I certainly learned a lot: it’s good to get out of academia sometimes and talk with practitioners.
If you follow this link you’ll find a PDF of the summary from the facilitated sessions, covering topics such as grassland and verge management, the urban edgeland, innovative projects, and green infrastructure.
Over at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s blog, Sam Page has a very nice summary of the whole day which is also worth reading: Trials and tribulations of managing urban grasslands for pollinators.
Many thanks to all of the organisers for their work in putting on this event.
This is by way of a re-post from the good folks over at the bio-Diverse blog. They’ve noted that there is now an online, interactive version of the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook report. It’s a product of a collaboration between the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), and was launched at the at the CBD COP in Hyderabad in 2012. There’s a video introduction narrated by actor Edward Norton and it deals with the huge increase in urbanisation that is predicted for the next few decades, together with the impacts it is likely to have on biodiversity, as well as the opportunities for nature within urban cityscapes.
It’s an interesting resource that deserves to be more widely advertised. As more of us become city folk, these are messages to which we need to pay heed if our descendants are to have healthy and happy lives.