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Cities and Biodiversity Outlook

First Draft of the Assessment and Consultation Process

The first draft of the CBO was delivered for review on 21 December to its Advisory Committee, its Inter-Agency Task-force, network of authors and contributors, as well as the members of the Global Partnership on Local and Sub-national Action for Biodiversity and Parties to the CBD. This review was part of the second consultation process (the first happened on the occasion of the development of the 10 key-messages), which took place from 22 December 2011 to 16 January 2012.

To consult the full draft of CBO, please see the documents below.


CBO Revised Draft

CBO Revised Draft

Special version for the Consultation Workshop in Cape Town, South Africa  
14 - 16 February 2012  
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CBO First Draft

CBO First Draft

First draft of the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook for consultation  
21 December 2011  
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CBO Review Form

CBO Review Form

Form to be used for sending review comments  
21 December 2011  
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Cities and Biodiversity Outlook - Action and Policy

Second Draft of the Assessment and Consultation Process

The CBO team is pleased to deliver another draft of the assessment for review! Thanks to the support of the Government of Japan, the CBD Secretariat has collaborated with the Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC) and ICLEI to produce the second draft version of the assessment.

By delivering this draft, the CBO team is opening the third consultation process of this publication. Members of CBO's Advisory Committee, the Task-force of international organizations, experts from various scientific consortia and networks, as well as the members of the Global Partnership on Local and Sub-national Action for Biodiversity and Parties to the CBD are welcome to participate and send comments.

Comments should be written in the form below and submitted no later than 31 July 2012 to Ms. Fabiana Spinelli at fabiana.spinelli@cbd.int.

We highlight that the draft is a working document, so illustrations and graphs are still not all arranged, and in some cases we’re still waiting for some final text from authors. For details about photos, maps and graphs please click here.

To consult the full second draft of CBO, please see below.


CBO Second Draft

CBO Second Draft

Second draft of the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook for consultation  
17 July 2012  
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Review Form

CBO Review Form

Form to be used for sending review comments  
17 July 2012  
Read more »  



Measuring a Regional Footprint: Catalonia, Spain
In 2009 the autonomous community of Catalonia, Spain, commissioned an extensive report on its footprint in preparation for its own biodiversity law. The report is framed within the Convention on Biological Diversity and its related European directives. It speaks not only of footprints but of international “anti-cooperation” and ecological debt, the negative consequences of trade, and exchanges with its partners. As Catalonia’s economy is 44 percent industrial, the study examines the effects of imports of oil, minerals, and biofuels in originating countries and also refers to the impacts of timber, meat, fish, and grain imports. Between 1990 and 2004, importation of materials into Catalonia grew from 11.8 tons per capita to 16.9 tons, or 56 percent. In 2006, every citizen had an ecological footprint of 8.39 hectares beyond availability. The report estimates the effects of overseas direct investment of Catalonian companies on biodiversity (23 percent of its volume affects Latin American conservation hotspots) and considers the landscape impacts of resort development by Catalonian hospitality groups in the region and elsewhere.


Cape Town, South Africa
With a population of just under 3.7 million people and a land area of 2,500 square kilometers (0.2 percent of South Africa’s total land area), Cape Town supports 50 percent of South Africa’s critically endangered vegetation types and about 3,000 indigenous vascular plant species. Cape Town falls within the globally recognized biodiversity hotspot known as the Cape Floristic Region; of the 18 vegetation types in the city, 11 are critically endangered and 3 are endangered. Although this statistic in part reflects severe land-use pressure, it also disproves the common assumption that cities cannot have high levels of biodiversity. What’s more, many of the plant species found in metropolitan Cape Town are endemic—found nowhere else on Earth.

São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo is the most populous city in the Southern Hemisphere and the third largest city in the world, with more than 11 million inhabitants. This megacity contains important biodiversity from the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot. Twenty-one percent of the city is covered by dense forest in various stages of ecological succession, but these remnants are under severe threat from the unrestrained occupation of both low-income housing and luxury condominiums. An impressive 1,909 plant species and 435 animal species have been recorded in the city, with 73 of the animal species endemic to the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest. The city’s Green Belt Biosphere Reserve, part of UNESCO’s Mata Atlantic Biosphere Reserve, protects important remnants of this rainforest as well as associated ecosystems.

Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, the most populous city in Scandinavia, comprises 216 square kilometres and includes 160 kilometres of waterfront and 14 islands. More than 14 percent of the city consists of aquatic environments. Among terrestrial environments, lush parks and residential areas with old, densely vegetated gardens complement protected areas and remnant patches of trees and grassland. Although the twentieth century saw a significant homogenization of Stockholm’s hinterlands, the city still supports a rich and diverse flora and fauna. More than 1,000 species of vascular plants have been recorded. Of 69 species of mammals known to breed in Sweden, 43 reproduce in or near Stockholm, including, somewhat controversially, wolves (Canis lupus) only a few tens of kilometres from the city. This rich biodiversity can be attributed in part to the city’s radial layout of infrastructure, which has left several green wedges connecting Stockholm to its hinterlands, and to a history of environmental efforts that date back to the late 1800s. More than 40 percent of the city’s land area still consists of green spaces. image of an example of Stockholm biodiversity.

By virtue of its geographical location, Singapore has a rich natural heritage. More than 10 ecosystems are found in this highly urbanized city–state of 5 million people. Although much of its biodiversity disappeared during the British colonization, Singapore still has a wealth of flora and fauna. Among the native species recorded are 2,145 vascular plants, 52 mammals, 364 birds, 301 butterflies, 127 dragonflies, 103 reptiles, 400 spiders, 66 freshwater fishes, and 255 hard corals. Between 2000 and 2010, intensive surveys found more than 500 species of plants and animals new to Singapore, of which more than 100 were new to science. Nestled in the heart of Singapore and not more than 15 kilometers from the busiest shopping areas are the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. A network of parks and park connectors permeate the island, allowing easy access to varied habitats rich in plant and animal life.


Water Purification through Wetlands: Nakivubo Swamps, Uganda
The Nakivubo Swamps are adjacent to Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. The local government had proposed draining the swamps to make way for agriculture, but when a study revealed that this ecosystem was providing a valuable service by filtering organic waste and other effluent derived from Kampala, the proposal was promptly dropped. The study indicated that a water-purification facility capable of performing the same service would cost several million US dollars to construct and US$ 2 million a year to maintain. In this case, the value of converting land for agriculture would be offset by the cost of lost sewage-treatment capacity; direct investment to maintain the wetland was a cost-effective measure to uphold the purification service. This example demonstrates how detailed information and cost estimates can better inform planning decisions.

The Value of Restoring Biodiversity: Mayesbrook Park, London, UK
An innovative partnership of public and private organizations in a densely urban area of East London has transformed a formerly rundown 45-hectare park into a showcase of how public green space can help a community cope with the risks from climate change, such as increased flooding and higher summer temperatures, while also providing socioeconomic uplift. The project involved rehabilitating the Mayes Brook, creating a new floodplain to naturally and safely store floodwater, planting new shrubs and trees to provide shade and enhanced habitats for wildlife, and adding new footpaths and signage so the public can better use the park. A 2011 assessment of the economic benefits of the project demonstrated that an investment of £3.84 million in restoring degraded habitats and enhancing the green infrastructure will yield a lifetime benefit-to-cost ratio of approximately 7:1. The gross annual benefit delivered by the ecosystem services is estimated at approximately £880,000. The cultural services—including recreation, social relations, and education—return a gross annual value of approximately £820,000, demonstrating how the restoration of biodiversity can provide economically robust climate-change mitigation and adaptation and also enhance the well-being of city-dwellers.

Wetlands and Floodplains Protect Coastal Cities: New Orleans, USA
Flooding has always been hazardous for the City of New Orleans. Extensive levees were built to mitigate flood risk, and surrounding wetlands were drained to combat disease such as mosquito-borne yellow fever and to open the way for further urbanization. In losing water, peaty soils compressed, subsided, and steadily sank below sea level. The levees prevented sediment-rich waters of the Mississippi River from adequately replenishing the floodplains and wetlands. Today more than 3,000 kilometers of levees line southern Louisiana’s waterways, and intensive engineering has rerouted vast volumes of water. Numerous upstream dams trap sediment, further depriving the delta of silt. This rapid disappearance of coastal wetlands has undermined the region’s capacity to absorb storm flow. In 2005, residents of New Orleans paid dearly for this spectacular loss of green infrastructure when the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the disastrous flooding it wrought. One of the few positive outcomes of that tragedy is a growing realization that restoration of green infrastructure is necessary to counter future storms, especially in the face of projected sea-level rise.

Tree Planting in Canberra, Australia
In the Australian city of Canberra, local authorities plant trees to generate a wealth of benefits. More than 400,000 trees can be found within the city limits. This urban forest helps mitigate the urban heat island effect, thereby reducing the need for energy-intensive air-conditioning and ventilation. The trees also improve air quality, intercept and absorb storm water, and sequester carbon. In terms of value generated or savings incurred to the city, these services were valued at approximately US$ 20–67 million for the period 2008–2012. The valuation has helped inform planning and budget allocations. photo of trees in Canberra

Ecosystem Valuation in Cape Town, South Africa
The City of Cape Town, South Africa, recently undertook an intensive assessment of the value of ecosystem services generated by natural areas in the city. These areas include nature reserves, coastal areas, wetlands, and rivers. Using valuation methods such as “willingness to pay,” the study estimated the net present value of the city’s natural assets as US$ 5.13–9.78 billion. The study has helped leverage funding for the environment from across departments by revealing the considerable contribution of ecosystem services to human welfare and underscoring the need to account and pay for their maintenance.


Healthy People and Parks, Australia
Parks Victoria, a park management agency of the State Government of Victoria, Australia, launched the “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” (HPHP; www.hphpcentral.com) approach in 2000. The goal was to emphasize the value of visiting parks and natural open spaces for the benefits they provide as healthy places for body, mind, and soul. Similar approaches have now developed around the world, including in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Melbourne initiative that emerged from the first International HPHP Congress declared that parks are “integral to healthy people and a healthy environment” and that “human health depends on healthy ecosystems.” The Congress was also the springboard to a partnership with a national health insurance provider, which is now funding public preventative health activities and establishing a network of health professionals to encourage people to increase their physical activity by engaging in activities in parks.

“Healthy People, Healthy Parks” Nepal
The “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” concept is also being adapted to developing countries, beginning with HPHP Nepal, a partnership involving the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Parks Victoria, and the Nepalese government. A 2010 workshop in Kathmandu highlighted that HPHP and resulting lessons learned could indeed be applied in countries with different socioeconomic contexts. As Dr. Chhatra Amatya, chairman of Chhahari Nepal for Mental Health, explained, “HPHP is all the more needed in a country like Nepal. Our children do not have space to play a game in a city.”

Curitiba’s Innovative Approach to Waste Management, Brazil
Curitiba’s population exploded from 120,000 to more than 2 million between 1942 and 1997, challenging the city to provide food, water, and sanitation services to its residents. By the early 1970s, poverty, waste, and disease were rampant in the city’s slums. Today, with 14 forests, 16 parks, and some 1,000 public green spaces, Curitiba is known as “Brazil’s green capital” and is hailed as a prime example of a green economy in a developing country. Among its innovations is the Green Exchange Programme, which encourages slum dwellers to clean up their surroundings and improves public health by offering fresh fruit and vegetables and bus tickets in exchange for garbage and waste brought to neighborhood centers. Local markets also accept bus tokens in exchange for food. Since 1991 the poorest neighborhoods have exchanged some 11,000 tons of garbage for almost 1 million bus tokens and 1,200 tons of food, and more than 70 percent of Curitiba households have participated in the program. The initiative also allows children to exchange recyclables for school supplies; in one 3-year period, more than 100 schools reportedly traded 200 tons of garbage for almost 2 million notebooks.

Greenery in Slums: A Valuable Source of Traditional Medicine, Bangalore, India
In many slums, the presence of trees and plants that heal is extremely crucial, as traditional medicine is typically the most economical, trusted, and readily available form of health care in such settlements. In Bangalore, one of India’s fastest growing cities, an estimated 30–40 percent of the population lives in 550-plus slums. Surveyed slums in Bangalore have an average of 11 trees per hectare, versus 28 per hectare in other residential areas. The species that dominate are of high medicinal and nutritional value to the residents and are sources of primary health care. The trees also offer many socio-cultural services. Daily chores such as cooking, washing dishes and clothes, and maintaining personal hygiene are carried out under tree cover. Trees act as pillars of support in such settlements—figuratively and literally by bearing tents, clotheslines, wires, and so on. The variety of roles that plants play in slums is extremely critical to people’s health and well-being.

More Trees, Less Childhood Asthma: New York City, USA
Rates of childhood asthma in the United States increased by 50 percent between 1980 and 2000, with the highest rates reported in poor urban communities. In New York City, where asthma is the leading cause of hospitalization among children under age 15, researchers at Columbia University undertook a study of the correlation between numbers of trees on residential streets and incidences of childhood asthma. They found that as the number of trees rose, the prevalence of childhood asthma tended to fall, even after data were adjusted for sociodemographics, population density, and proximity to pollution sources. How might trees reduce the risk for asthma? One explanation is that they help remove pollutants from the air. Another is that trees may be more abundant in neighborhoods that are well maintained in other ways, leading to lower exposure to allergens that trigger asthma. Yet another is that leafy neighborhoods encourage children to play outdoors, where they are exposed to microorganisms that help their immune systems develop properly. Further studies will provide a clearer picture of whether street trees really do make for healthier children: New York City is currently in the midst of planting a million new trees by 2017.

The Many Benefits of Urban Agriculture
Growing local crops can increase knowledge and awareness of and interest in the biophysical and food-growing processes, empower citizens to influence sources of food production, strengthen links to natural food chains, and encourage healthier lifestyle choices. Greater food self-reliance, cheaper food prices, greater accessibility to fresh produce, and poverty alleviation are all key benefits that can arise from urban agriculture with sound decision-making and planning of the cities’ ecosystems. The advantages of urban agriculture have also been noted in the World Health Organization’s Healthy Cities Programme, which appeals to local governments around the world to include urban agriculture in their urban plans.


Mexico City’s Actions on Climate Change, Mexico
Mexico City was the first Latin America city to implement a Climate Action Program. Three components of the overall program place biodiversity at their core: (1) The Green Roof Program aims to create 10,000 square meters of new green roofs annually, to improve air quality, regulate humidity, reduce temperatures, and provide new biodiversity resources across the city. By increasing environmental awareness among citizens, the program also plays an important educational role. (2) Focusing on pollution risks, the Recovery of the Rivers Magdalene and Eslava program is improving environmental conditions in two important tributaries and their surrounding neighborhoods. Additional funding in 2011–2012 has helped secure a water supply for the city and reduce the energy and economic costs associated with traditional water treatment. (3) Almost 60 percent of Mexico City is represented by Land for Conservation, which provides environmental goods and services essential to the entire city. The two-pronged Program of Restoration of Ecosystems and Compensation for Maintaining Environmental Services rewards landowners in this area both for protecting essential natural resources and for restoring degraded habitats. It also encourages communities to actively protect and restore natural ecosystems.

Mitigating Local Climate Change, Yokohama, Japan
In 2007 the administrative district of Yokohama emitted almost 20 million tons of CO2. Aiming to become a low-carbon city, it set a goal to reduce per person CO2 emissions by at least 60 percent, relative to the 2004 level, by 2050. With a population of almost 3.7 million, Yokohama has been continuously degrading and converting its forests and farmland. The consequence has been a demonstrable impact on the city’s microclimate, above that associated with global climate change, resulting in an urban heat island effect. The increase in buildings and paved surfaces has enhanced the city’s heat-absorption capacity and increased its reflective heat, thereby raising temperatures. At the same time, the decrease in forests and farmland has reduced evapotranspiration, thereby slowing cooling. Recognizing the importance of biodiversity in stabilizing the local climate, the city introduced a new tax system and a mechanism to use the revenue to conserve privately owned green areas. It also decided to expand green areas with rooftop and wall greening and to work with citizens to reduce residential CO2 emissions. It set a minimum target for effective evapotranspiration from green areas at 30 percent of the total city land area.


Guiding Healthy Urban Agriculture in Kampala, Uganda
Uganda’s largest city is well suited to agriculture: it has a tropical climate, good soils, water, and abundant rainfall. Although the city is growing rapidly, agriculture remains highly visible, even in densely populated areas. In 2002, 49 percent of households were farming within city boundaries—the vast majority of them for food security or survival, not commercially. About half were raising livestock as well as crops. The recognition that urban agriculture was so widespread generated serious health concerns among Kampala’s City Council. In many cases, people were farming in hazardous or unsuitable places—roadsides, wetlands, and contaminated sites. When an extended research project started on urban farming and public health, the city joined the effort. Between 2002 and 2005, the project researched the benefits and risks of urban agriculture in Kampala. As a result of this and other research, Kampala changed how it regulates urban food production. In December 2006 it passed five new ordinances defining how urban agriculture can be carried out in the city. The effort—among the first serious legislative reforms to support urban agriculture—was designed to encourage self-reliance among urban dwellers and safe and healthy food production while also ensuring public health.

Urban Agriculture in Cuba
Since 1987 Cuba has focused on urban and suburban agriculture to counter its crisis of lack of imports as well as malnutrition and iron deficiency in the population. More than 54,000 hectares are currently dedicated for urban agriculture, including vegetables, fruits, apiculture, and livestock. Havana alone supports one of the most extensive urban agriculture networks in the world: 4 million tons of vegetables are grown each year in more than 200 urban organic farms, known as organiponicos. Urban agriculture produces 90 percent of Havana’s fruits and vegetables while reducing the city’s carbon footprint by trading the produce in local markets. Biodiversity is considered a key element for sustainable production, and a priority is placed on improving the gene bank in the country. More than 650 species are grown in Cuba, including more than 100 livestock breeds. Compost, biopesticides, and seeds are produced by cooperative producers, who receive technical support from a national organization. The products are then made available to urban farmers through local kiosks. Recent research is focused on improved soil and plant management, developing new vegetable varieties, greenhouse production, and small agro-industry development to increase resilience in the face of climate change.

Urbanization Encourages Food Biodiversity in Northern Vietnam
The urbanization rate is still low (30 percent) in Vietnam compared with other South-East Asian countries, but it is growing steadily. Cities increasingly offer a significant market for food products. Traditionally, food in Vietnam has been distributed through street vendors and fixed market retailers, but in the last 10 years modern distribution has developed in the form of supermarkets and shops. Urban consumers are concerned with the origin and quality of food, and they readily establish a relationship between a specific place of production and specific taste features, which are due to soil and climate characteristics as well as traditional production methods. Although these specificities of consumption help maintain food biodiversity, biodiversity is jeopardized because retailers commonly mix products of different origins and the traceability of food is not always ensured. Thanks to various farmer organizations, as well as public and international research organizations, several protocols have been developed to stabilize production of the traditional hoa vang sticky rice and to have it labeled and packaged so it can fetch a premium price. Similar experiences relate to Thanh Ha litchi fruit, Bac Kan seedless persimmon, the dai hoang variety of banana, H’mong beef, and various indigenous vegetables.

Rooftop Gardening in Montreal, Canada
Rooftop gardening is catching on all over the world. In Montreal, where local fruits and vegetables can be hard to find except during the brief summer growing season, a 31,000-square-foot greenhouse known as Lufa Farm sits atop an office building. It grows more than 25 varieties of vegetables year-round, and it does so without using any artificial pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides. The use of controlled-environment agriculture enables the operation to yield as much as a conventional farm 10 times its size. Mohamed Hage, Lufa’s founder, hopes that someday Montreal will be full of rooftop gardens. As he explains on the farm’s website, rooftop gardens do “more than grow vegetables.” They allow land previously lost to development to be farmed again; minimize the distance, time, and handling of food between grower and consumer; allow for the production of highly nutritious foods “instead of only semi-tasteless varieties that ship and store well”; and directly involve consumers with local farmers. Rooftop gardens also keep buildings cooler, save energy, improve air quality, and help mitigate the urban heat island effect. Lufa Farm distributes its produce at more than 30 drop-off points around Montreal. It also provides products from several local Quebec farms.


Growth Corridor Plans in Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne is Australia’s second-largest city, with a current population of more than 4 million. It is growing rapidly and expected to reach 6 million over the next 30 years. In response to this growth, a metropolitan planning strategy is being prepared that will not only manage growth but ensure that Melbourne sustains its broadly valued infrastructure, services, art and cultural attractions, and diverse natural settings such as bays, waterways, parks, and gardens. The city’s Growth Area Authority—an independent body that works in partnership with local councils, developers, and the Victorian Government to help create sustainable, well-serviced communities—is developing four Growth Corridor Plans. Each plan will create new communities planned around housing, jobs, transportation, town centres, open spaces, and key infrastructure, taking into account impacts on biodiversity and how to plan for better integration of nature and people. New communities will benefit from an integrated plan that provides for a distinctive character and amenities and that preserves and enhances existing biodiversity values. By guiding development in a sustainable manner, the plans aim to reduce carbon and other footprints.

Durban’s Metropolitan Open Space System – D’MOSS, South Africa
Durban is located in a global biodiversity hotspot (see p. XXX) and has been committed to sustainable development for decades. The Durban Metropolitan Open Space System (D’MOSS) is a plan that identifies key areas that support biodiversity and supply ecosystem services. Although D’MOSS was initiated in the 1970s and has appeared in strategic plans since the early 1990s, Durban’s town planning schemes were developed with little environmental input and often conflict with strategic plans, environmental policy, and law. To address this problem, D’MOSS was included in the schemes in 2010 as a controlled development layer, a first for a South African city. Despite the underlying zoning, development may not occur within D’MOSS without first obtaining environmental authorization or support from the municipality, which may or may not be given. Where it is given, it is likely to be subject to significant controls to ensure that biodiversity and ecosystem services are not degraded. This effort has been seen by some as curtailing property rights, but others see positive spin-offs—for example, the city’s Treasury and Real Estates Departments can now consider potential environmental restrictions when property taxes are calculated on vacant land.

How Accra Benefits from Its Wetlands
Accra is Ghana’s largest city and economic center. It has three major wetlands, and according to the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency, they provide residents with “unimaginable benefits”—among them erosion and flood control, clean water, and a greenbelt that regulates the city’s microclimate. As important sites for eco-tourism and as scenic spots for the city’s hotels and beach resorts, the wetlands support commerce and employment. They also support the city’s poorest residents, who use the wetlands for fishing, crabbing, the provision of raw materials such as raffia and salt for cottage industries, traditional medicines, and dry-season vegetable farming. As Accra has grown, however, its wetlands have been threatened by encroaching development, pollution, overexploitation, siltation, and loss of biodiversity and aesthetic values. The city has managed these problems by instituting integrated management strategies that recognize the value of wetlands and ensure enforcement of building regulations and pollution control. The approach has included the designation of two RAMSAR sites; management systems on the sites; development of Coastal Sensitivity Mapping; delineation of greenbelts to stop urban sprawl; and the creation of awareness programs to encourage residents to help conserve the wetlands.

Curitiba’s Biocity Program, Brazil
Combining public and private initiatives, Curitiba’s Biocity Program is a leading example of urban planning integrated with biodiversity conservation. The program has brought together multiple departments and stakeholders in an effort to reduce local biodiversity loss and thus contribute to global biodiversity conservation targets. Biocity concentrates its actions in five main areas: (1) planting ornamental indigenous plant species in the city, to promote knowledge and familiarity with the region’s indigenous flora; (2) establishing protected areas; (3) preserving water resources, through a plan for revitalizing the Barigui River basin; (4) planting indigenous tree species in the city; and (5) improving both air quality and transportation, through the Green Line Project, a major transportation corridor with special lanes for bicycles and pedestrians as well as a linear park. Since its launch in 2007, the Biocity Program has improved the city’s green spaces and green infrastructure and thus the quality of life for residents. Currently, Curitiba counts 300,000 trees, 77.7 million square meters of protected areas, and more than 380 public parks and gardens, for a total of 51.5 square meters of green area per inhabitant.


Biodiversity Recovery in Greater Sudbury, Canada
Greater Sudbury, the most populated city in northern Ontario, is an important mining center and home to one of the largest nickel ore bodies in the world. Past smelting activities contributed to high levels of atmospheric sulphur dioxide and resulted in the disappearance of most of the area’s vegetation: by the 1960s, an estimated 84,000 hectares were considered barren or semi-barren. In 1978 the city initiated a regreening program. Based on a partnership among community groups, citizens, government ministries and agencies, educational institutions, and the local mining companies, Vale and Xstrata Nickel, the program has resulted in the planting of millions of trees and shrubs on tens of thousands of hectares. Together with the mining companies, the city also developed a Biodiversity Action Plan. This long-term commitment to ecological recovery and biodiversity (available at www.greatersudbury.ca/biodiversity) was developed with considerable community input. The plan outlines the actions needed for ecological recovery, highlights the need for education and citizen engagement, and also addresses issues such as watershed protection, food biodiversity, climate change, and at-risk species. With these efforts, the City of Greater Sudbury and its partners continue to showcase the extent to which a community can transform itself through ecological recovery.

Generating Green Jobs in Durban, South Africa
Durban’s Buffelsdraai Landfill Site Community Reforestation Project was initiated in 2008 in anticipation of creating a carbon sink to help offset the CO2 emissions associated with Durban’s hosting of several World Cup soccer matches in 2010. The project involves “reforestation” of a 757-hectare buffer zone of a municipal landfill site. Indigenous trees are grown by “Treepreneurs,” local community members who establish small-scale indigenous tree nurseries at their homes. Tree seedlings are exchanged for credit notes, which can be traded for food and other basic goods, or even used to pay school fees. To date, the project has engaged nearly 600 Treepreneurs—75 percent of them women and 19 percent of them youth—who have planted more than 276,000 trees on 240 hectares. The project has created more than 300 jobs for community members, demonstrating that reforestation can provide direct socioeconomic benefits to communities as well as enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. In 2011 the Buffelsdraai Landfill Site Community Reforestation Project was recognized by the United Nations as one of ten “lighthouse projects”—projects in developing countries that help put the world on a more climate-resilient and low-carbon path while also improving people’s lives.

Linking Biodiversity and Traditional Crafts, Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa is famous for its gardens, old architecture, literature, cuisine, and traditional crafts. The city was designated a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art in 2009 and hosted the global launch of the UN Decade on Biodiversity in 2011. Local businesses have traditionally been linked to the city’s ecosystems. In recent years, city policies, community involvement, and local entrepreneurship have reinforced this cultural and ecological richness through various initiatives. In agriculture, an innovative branding scheme for traditional varieties of local vegetables—Kaga vegetables—has helped preserve agro-biodiversity while incentivizing the local economy, from seed companies to farmers, retailers, and the hospitality industry. These efforts have also revitalized the traditional Kaga cuisine and the locally made porcelain and lacquerware on which it is served. Approximately half of the city’s current vegetable production—valued at more than $16 million USD in 2008—corresponds to the Kaga brand. Kanazawa currently has about 900 manufacturing companies related to traditional craft industries. Its efforts highlight the importance of aligning cultural considerations in the design of local strategies that ensure sustainable use of local biodiversity.

A Public-Private Partnership in Iloilo City, Philippines
The Iloilo River has played a significant role in the development and economy of Iloilo City, Philippines. By 2000, however, unrestricted development, siltation, overfishing, commercial exploitation, and dumping of waste had brought the river to a critical state. Facing further urbanization and alarming degradation of the river and the biodiversity it supported, in 2003 the city government partnered with the Iloilo Business Club (IBC) to develop a planning process and 10-year master plan for restoring the river. Realizing the need for multisector and integrated approaches, the city and IBC convened consultative groups composed of NGOs, private businesses, academia, religious organizations, villages, and youth groups. A multiagency coordinating body—the Iloilo River Development Council—was established to institutionalize and implement the master plan. The master plan has prevented the destruction of mangroves, stemmed aquatic pollution, and established community watch groups to facilitate environmental protection. It has also resulted in measures to conserve and protect biodiversity. The approach taken in Iloilo demonstrates how multiple stakeholders, including those with commercial interests, can work together to integrate the protection and enhancement of important natural resources into both a sustainable urban master plan and actions on the ground.

Indigenous Peoples in Urban Areas
According to an estimate in a 2010 UN-HABITAT report, at least 40 percent of the world’s indigenous peoples now live in urban areas. For example, an estimated 40 percent of Latin America’s indigenous peoples, 54 percent of Canada’s aboriginal peoples, and 84 percent of New Zealand’s Maori population live in cities. In Chile almost 65 percent of the indigenous population resides in cities, and in Tanzania 90 percent of Masai men have migrated to the city. Several factors have prompted such migrations: land dispossession, displacement, military conflict, natural disasters, the overall deterioration of traditional livelihoods coupled with the absence of viable economic alternatives, and the prospect of better economic opportunities in cities. For many indigenous peoples, migrating for work—both within and beyond national borders—is perceived as a way out of poverty.

Despite finding a few benefits, such as proximity to social facilities, many indigenous peoples encounter substantial difficulties in urban areas. Lack of employment and income-generating opportunities, racism and other forms of discrimination, limited access to education and health services, and inadequate housing are the main challenges they face. In general, disrespect for a wide range of human rights is often the main underlying cause for persisting poverty among urban indigenous communities. In most cases, indigenous communities try to organize themselves to better cope with their new economic and social conditions, which are often characterized by hostility and discrimination.

There are, however, examples where urban indigenous peoples have opportunities to improve their lives and to contribute to the sustainable development of cities. The increasing efforts of many local authorities to preserve biodiversity and local culture have revealed unique opportunities to integrate indigenous traditional knowledge into cities’ biodiversity conservation strategies and action plans. As indigenous peoples often have profound natural, spiritual, economic, and cultural connections to the land and the goods and services it provides, cities can benefit by engaging indigenous peoples in urban planning and policy. Traditional knowledge can help cities reduce project costs—for example, by improving resources management—and thus contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

Indigenous people in Edmonton. In response to a growing awareness of the needs and aspirations of aboriginal peoples residing in Edmonton, in 2005 the City Council adopted the declaration “Strengthening Relationships between the City of Edmonton and Urban Aboriginal People.” Later that year it also developed the Edmonton Urban Aboriginal Accord, and two years later it created an Aboriginal Relations Office. As a result of these efforts, Edmonton is bringing aboriginal perspectives to city projects, among them land-use review of a portion of Whitemud Park, the redesign of Walterdale Bridge in Rossdale, and the Boyle Street redevelopment plans.

Indigenous people in Auckland. Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, has a sense of place that has been shaped by the shared experiences of Maori and European peoples. Maori see themselves as belonging to the land, as opposed to the land belonging to them, and the natural environment plays a significant role in defining the Maori sense of place. With the participation by Maori in local government decision-making, the Auckland City Council developed the urban design framework, in which its goal number one is to reflect the city’s tangata whenua—Maori, Pacific, and multicultural identity—and to be visibly recognized as a place of the South Pacific. The use of Maori values in urban design and development is entirely consistent with low-impact urban design and development.


Biodiversity Education in Mexico City’s Zoological Parks, Mexico
Mexico City operates three zoological parks: Chapultepec Zoo, San Juan de Aragón Zoo, and Los Coyotes Zoo. In recent decades these parks have evolved from recreational facilities to modern conservation centers of local, national, and exotic wildlife species. Considering education as an essential task for biodiversity conservation, the parks have developed a wide array of innovative educational programs and activities, among them rotating exhibits, interactive educational activities, summer educational courses, educational training for docents, and educational tours for schools. Activities may focus on a specific species and its recovery, or they may be directed toward biodiversity-related themes such as climate change, water conservation, or habitat protection. The great majority of the 9 million people who visit these parks every year live in cities and have limited exposure to nature. Through their educational programs, Mexico City’s zoological parks thus have the opportunity to heighten public awareness of the importance of conserving biodiversity for a resilient and sustainable future.

Five Million Trees in Five Years: The Harare Greening Project
The Harare Greening Project is an ambitious effort to reverse deforestation, help mitigate the effects of climate change, and beautify Harare’s roadways. The project began in 2010 when a few Harare residents convened a stakeholders meeting. Among the key players they invited were NGOs working in sustainable development and climate change, government workers with responsibility for trees, tree nursery owners, and municipal representatives. The group set a target of planting 5 million trees over a 5-year period. They encouraged participation at many levels and invited supporters to plant trees on their own land or on public land, or to buy trees for others to plant. Half a million trees were reportedly planted in the first year. Although the project has encountered several challenges, it has continued to expand. What’s more, the concept has been adopted on a larger scale: a partnership of companies that formed an organization called Friends of the Environment Trust is championing a nationwide effort to plant 500 million trees in Zimbabwe.

Restoring a River and Empowering Youth: New York City, USA
Year-round, the nonprofit organization Rocking the Boat (http://rockingtheboat.org) in New York City offers opportunities for severely disadvantaged local youth to learn about the natural and social history of the Bronx River and to work on projects to restore it. Here, a group of students monitors the effects of habitat restoration. Planting Spartina grasses, mapping the riverbed’s topography, building and installing tree swallow boxes along the riverbank, taking field notes and collecting data, and learning to identify plants, birds, fish, and other wildlife are just a few of the activities students do. Getting out on the river in a fleet of hand-built wooden boats, the students also learn about water safety, teamwork, and how to row a boat. As Rocking the Boat says on its website, this hands-on environmental education program gives urban youngsters “the chance to learn about their own community, their own river, and their own possibilities for the future.” Photo by Alex Kudryavtsev.


Water Supply, Sewerage, and Environmental Clean-Up, Cartagena, Colombia
A 20-year project (2005–2025) to rehabilitate and expand the water supply and sewerage for the city of Cartagena, Colombia, is providing opportunities to sustainably dispose of wastewater, restore an important coastal wetland, and improve sanitary conditions and access to clean water for the city’s poor. The approach integrates several innovations, among them restoration of degraded habitats, improved protection of a legally protected area, use of a cumulative environmental impact assessment (the first of its kind in Colombia), and establishment of a multidisciplinary expert panel to oversee the design and site-selection process. This project demonstrates the importance of considering biodiversity as part of a project’s initial goals. By adopting this approach, the issues surrounding the disposal of 145,000 cubic meters per day of polluted wastewater are being overcome. By integrating the views of local stakeholders, perceptions have been changed and landscapes once thought of as degraded or unattractive are becoming economic, aesthetic, and ecological assets. Not only are sanitary conditions being improved, but the expansion of water-supply services is increasing land values. The holistic thinking applied in Cartagena demonstrates how the needs of infrastructure, biodiversity, and local communities can be integrated in a mutually beneficial and sustainable manner.

The Way of the Future: Urban Eco-Areas
Some cities are starting to change their ways. They’re taxing wastes, encouraging renewable energies, promoting car sharing, and optimising natural sources of light. The best examples are in urban eco-areas such as Copenhagen’s Vesterbro, London’s Beddington Zero Energy Development, Vauban in Freiburg im Breisgau, and the Eva Lanxmeer quarter in the city of Culemborg in the Netherlands. These areas are designed to be carbon neutral and to promote concepts of eco-citizenship, encouraging people to improve their own well-being by preserving the environment. “Cities of tomorrow” are also beginning to emerge—cities that are ecological and technological at the same time. For example, the energy-independent city of Gwanggyo in South Korea will be a verdant acropolis of organic “hill” structures, with eight buildings that mix housing, offices, entertainment areas, and other facilities, thereby reducing transportation needs while also building a strong sense of community. In Abu Dhabi, the planned city of Masdar will rely entirely on solar energy and other renewable energy sources, with a zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology. This eco-city will eventually comprise 6.5 square kilometers and by 2020 be home to 90,000 inhabitants. Transport will be based only on citizen’s feet, bikes, and for further distances, a rapid electric tramway. photo of Gwanggyo, South Korea, from Kathryn Campbell.

From Open Dump to Greenery: Mumbai’s Gorai Dump Closure Project, India
The city of Mumbai generates about 6,500 tons per day of municipal solid waste and about 2,400 tons per day of construction waste. For almost 40 years, all of that waste went to Gorai Dump—a 20-hectare open dumpsite in Mumbai’s western suburbs. Situated next to a creek and close to residential areas, the dump had caused significant environmental damage and long been known as one of the unhealthiest places in Mumbai. Closure of the site in 2009 involved leveling and reforming the heaps of garbage (their average height was 26 meters), covering them with impermeable surfaces, and converting them into a high-quality green area. The next step in the project will be installing a power plant at the site that will run on methane gas from the decomposing garbage—thereby producing electricity as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The project has already yielded many public-health and lifestyle benefits that have completely transformed the lives of local residents. They have a beautiful new green space to enjoy, air and water quality have improved, breeding flies and rodents have been eliminated, and property values in the area have increased fivefold.

Montreal’s Urban Ecoterritories, Canada
Montreal’s ecoterritories are a network of critical conservation areas. In 2004, to halt the annual loss of 75 hectares of woodlands, Montreal identified 10 areas larger than 15 hectares in which to prioritize the protection and enhancement of natural spaces. These “ecoterritories” comprise core zones (pockets of biodiversity), protective buffers, and ecological corridors (see map) and include a mix of existing protected areas and other natural spaces, in private as well as public hands. The city has engaged in several conservation initiatives in the ecoterritories. Various tools are used (among them, ecological gifts, leases, and acquisitions) to meet the needs of stakeholders. Protected areas are expanded, private and public owners of biodiversity-rich areas are approached to exchange their land with publicly owned brownfields, and incentives are offered, including technical assistance and a permit to develop buildings to a higher construction level elsewhere. The ecoterritories concept is now recognized in several borough chapters of the Montreal Master Plan.

Green Urban Policies in Montpellier, France
Montpellier provides an outstanding example of how green urban policies can attract investments in sustainable development and technologies. Montpellier cares for biodiversity not only within its own borders—it has a “green network” of protected areas that link the city’s ecosystems—but also far beyond. To remind citizens of the relevance of rainforests and the need to conserve them, Montpellier built an Amazonian greenhouse at the Zoological Park, where visitors can see tropical animals and plants. Investing in biodiversity has paid off for the city: in 2011, Montpellier was named the European and French Capital for Biodiversity. This image, in turn, attracts green businesses and even international scientific organizations. Several research institutions, including Bioversity International, CIRAD-Agriculture for Development, the National Institute for Health and Medical Research, and the Institute for Research and Development, work in Montpellier through Agropolis International, a network of researchers in 13 institutions. The city also reaches out for scientific and technical cooperation. Cooperating with cities in the U.S., Germany, Spain, China, Israel, Morocco, and Algeria, Montpellier took the lead in establishing MEDIVERCITIES, a network of cities focused on biodiversity around the Mediterranean Basin.

The photos, graphs and maps of the CBO are now available on Flickr. To access all these illustrations please visit:


Should have photos of places, projects and initiatives explored in the CBO, please contact Ms. Fabiana Spinelli at fabiana.spinelli@cbd.int. Your contribution will be much appreciated!

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme