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Urban areas house the majority of the world’s population; 55% of people currently live in an urban area, but this is expected to rise to 68% by 2050.  As cities grow and we continue to build, it’s vital to understand the importance that biodiversity brings to different landscapes and to conserve green spaces where we can.

Understanding the value of ecology in urban spaces is necessary for biodiversity conservation and restoration, not to mention the many benefits that biodiverse landscapes bring to the population. Biodiversity should be a crucial consideration at the forefront of urban planning and as populations expand, we need to find ways to incorporate green infrastructure into our cities. Recent updates to the UK government’s environmental bill have also highlighted the importance of preserving biodiversity, which has resulted in new regulation such as Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG).

What makes a biodiverse landscape?

Biodiversity is used to refer to every living thing, including animals, plants, humans and bacteria. Images of rainforests or coral reefs are often used to illustrate biodiversity, but urban ecosystems can be biodiverse too.

Parks, woodland, green roofs and even backyard ponds all help to create a biodiverse landscape in urban areas.

Image of our project at London Wall Place with SpaceHub Design.

Biodiversity and urban planning

Human activities like construction or road planning alter biodiversity patterns, so it’s vital to consider these factors when it comes to urban planning.  According to a report published in The Ecologist, human activities ‘create a more fragmented environment’ and they also modify dispersal patterns of plants and animals. It’s therefore increasingly important to create links between natural areas, to help increase biodiversity and maintain populations.

However, this does not necessarily mean such a disruptive change as it implies.  Urban greening systems like rain gardens, SUDs schemes, ground based and façade bound living walls and intensive green roofs ensure that biodiversity is maintained or re-introduced without the need to re-configure your building plans.

Biodiversity Net Gain

Biodiversity Net Gain is one of the key points set out in the UK government’s Environment Bill, which was reintroduced on 30 January 2020. It follows on from the government’s original 25 year plan to ‘leave the environment in a better state than we found it.’

The terms set out in Biodiversity Net Gain require all new developments to deliver at least a 10 per cent improvement in “biodiversity value”. This could be in the form of a green roof, for example, or an area of managed woodland next to a new housing development.  The scope of greening required is dependant on the scope of the development and potentially the local targets.  As a new piece of regulation for architects and specifiers to follow, it’s important that the opportunities that are available are understood and taken advantage of.

Best Practice Guidance

This is something we are setting out in our best practice guidance note on understanding, creating, and implementing the best green infrastructure solutions to meet the BNG regulation, including guidance for nuanced situations.  We’re developing this in collaboration with the GI and Biodiversity specialist team at AECOM, combining our expertise in horticulture and the technicalities of GI solutions with their knowledge in architecture and biodiversity.

To get early access to the guide and live launch webinar, drop us a note here.

The benefits of biodiverse landscapes

There are many benefits to be gained by incorporating biodiversity into urban landscapes; specifically for local ecology, real estate and the community. Research indicates that urban biodiversity has a clear positive impact on human physical health, psychological health, societal and cultural health, and economic health and stability.

Healthy, functioning ecosystems also provide practical benefits, such as improved air quality, carbon sequestration, and sources of green energy. Biodiverse landscapes also offer improved microclimates, increased food security, agricultural resilience and a sense of community and wellbeing for local residents.

For one of our webinar sessions earlier this year, we were joined by Ashley Welch, GI and Biodiversity Specialist to discuss this very topic: ‘Understanding The Value of Biodiverse Landscapes’.  A video recording of this session is featured in our Biodiversity Content Library along with five other sessions on biodiversity related topics which you can access here.

We understand the value of biodiverse landscapes here at Viritopia, which is why we use green infrastructures like living walls and green roofs to boost well-being, improve air quality and increase biodiversity.

For an introduction to our work and to find out more about how we re-introduce biodiversity with urban greening systems, take a look at our case studies page here.

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