Network Exchange on Biodiversity: City Challenges and Protection Efforts

Earlier this year, Melbourne, Australia hosted the third-ever 100 Resilient Cities Network Exchange, focused on urban biodiversity and city resilience. The Melbourne team was joined by CROs and city team members from Boulder, Durban, New Orleans and Semarang, along with a variety of partners and outside experts.

Cities depend on natural ecosystems both within and beyond the urban environment for a wide range of goods and services that are essential for the well-being of their residents, including food, water, air quality, climate regulation, protection from natural hazards, and the delivery of measurable health benefits.

However, with a global population climbing towards a peak of 9 billion by mid-century, 75% of whom will live in cities, these existing natural resources and ecosystems are coming under increasing pressure. These pressures are only exacerbated by the intersecting challenges of climate change and water scarcity. And once a natural asset is lost, it is expensive and in many cases impossible to recreate it. In an age when the number of people at risk at any given time or place is unprecedented, urban biodiversity can play a key role in strengthening cities’ resilience to a changing climate, economy, and society.

The exchange kicked off with presentations from CROs on their cities’ biodiversity challenges and protection efforts. Among the examples:

Durban shared one of their Resilience Building Opportunities which is to undertake more integrated planning at the interface of their municipal and traditional governance systems.

38% of the municipality is rural and under traditional governance authority – these are also the areas where rich biodiversity facilitates provision of a whole range of ecosystem services – water purification, flood attenuation, etc. – at no cost for the vulnerable populations that live there. In the resource-constrained context in which Durban’s municipal government operates, protection of these areas and the free resources they offer to the city’s most vulnerable is critical.

Semarang highlighted its pilot initiative to promote organic urban farming in partnership with the Semarang Agriculture Agency and Diponegoro University. By training community members to produce high quality native organic products on vacant land, the city hopes to offer economic opportunity to its residents (through engagement with local retail shops and markets to establish distribution channels) and reduce the use of pesticides (through their work with the Agriculture Agency). The city is also piloting aquaponics farming to bolster these efforts.

Watch highlights of the Biodiversity Network Exchange:

On the second day, Melbourne’s many living laboratories demonstrated first-hand how Greater Melbourne is already building resilience into its natural interventions. One particularly interesting destination was the Western Treatment Plant – a 10,500 hectare / 40 square mile site that treats nearly half of Melbourne’s sewage via gravity flow, lagoon treatment, renewable energy and application of recycled water to land – all of which creates an incredible rich habitat for the up to 120,000 birds that habit the areas seasonally.

The exchange also provided an opportunity to elevate the discussion about biodiversity on several fronts. Participants met for over an hour with City of Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Doyle – discussing everything from the power of the global network of cities to sanitation provider performance-based contracts that leveraging data on municipal trash can levels,and approaches to leading urban resilience at the metropolitan scale.

Chief Resilience Officers share their perspectives on the value of the Network Exchange:

The exchange was capped off with a panel of Chief Resilience Officers held at the University of Melbourne Design School. The session was opened by the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute’s newly-installed City of Melbourne Chair of Resilient Cities, Lars Koenen and facilitated by Melbourne’s Director of City Strategy and Place, Kate Vinot. With roughly 200 attendees in the audience, the event afforded a powerful venue to bring resilience to design students, local experts in the climate adaptation and sustainability space, and others.

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