What place for Biodiversity in our urban areas? Bonn’s approach to “urban nature”

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From 19 to 30 May 2008 Bonn will host the 9th Ordinary Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The commendable efforts made by the city to take biodiversity into account in its urban planning will clearly need to be showcased during this important event.

Situated in the Rhine Valley/southern LowerRhine bight, Bonn is home to 314 000 people and covers 141 square kilometers. The city has a long history of settlement. The dense population and traditional urban character of the whole region, as well as the fact that Bonn is home to many young families, creates a permanent need for expansion and new individual housings. In Germany and Europe, the conflict in balancing urban development needs with those of landscape conservation is subject to a rather sophisticated legal framework requiring approval of projects and compensatory measures if necessary. In Bonn, some 51% of urban space is under some form of protection, namely 28% in landscape protection and 23% in nature preserves. Besides spatial planning, raising awareness and promoting agro-biodiversity are main targets set by decision makers. For instance, a new project involves finding, safeguarding, promoting and publicizing old regional fruit and vegetable varieties, in the interest of preserving species and varietal diversity among crops. Furthermore, Bonn is aware of the inter-linkages between biodiversity and other fields of sustainability, namely climate change, though it remains unclear how they might make converge the two agendas. Despite the efforts made in terms of ecological continuity and species protection, one may question the place given to biodiversity in the evolution of city. Is biodiversity essentially limited to a spatial planning question: i.e. within green open spaces or nature conservation areas? The answer is clearly not! For a start, Bonn’s citizens and decision makers might want to have a look at the following selection of issues:

  • Food consumption patterns, both in terms of the ecological impacts of food production processes and the ecological health of the marine and terrestrial ecosystems that provide them ; with direct links with other ecological issues such as climate change (e.g. transports) and the ecological integrity of water bodies (e.g. agricultural chemicals).
  • Biodiversity and health: How can we integrate biodiversity in the daily activities, living spaces and medicine of humans? Too often we forget that without the millions of bacteria in our intestines (and our epidermal or mouth “flora”) we would not be able to survive. As living organisms, humans are an integral part of the diversity, variability and complexity of living systems!

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