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Urban Biodiversity

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Although cities occupy just 2 percent of the Earth's surface, their inhabitants use 75% of the planet's natural resources. Cities draw on their surrounding ecosystems for goods and services, and their products and emissions can affect regional and even global ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems and biological diversity are vital for cities to function properly. Ecosystems provide three main kinds of services to the city: provisioning of food, fibre and fuels; regulating through purification, detoxification and mitigation of droughts and floods; and enriching the spiritual, aesthetic and social life of urban dwellers.

Biodiversity - the diversity among living organisms - plays an essential role in ensuring the survival of life on earth. Clean water, foodstuffs, medicines and quality of life are just a few of the services which biodiversity offers to cities. Recognizing the importance of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems for their survival, cities today undertake many initiatives to utilize and conserve their surroundings efficiently. These actions can reach far beyond the boundaries of the city, affecting biodiversity on a global scale.

A Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity was launched by UNEP, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), UN-HABITAT, ICLEI, IUCN Countdown 2010, UNITAR, UNESCO and a Steering Group of Mayors from Curitiba, Montreal, Bonn, Nagoya and Johannesburg to bring together existing initiatives on cities and biodiversity. The aim of the Partnership is to engage cities in the fight to reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2010. The Partnership assists national and local governments by providing awareness raising material, organizing workshops and trainings, developing tools and involving cities in international meetings on biodiversity. Activities undertaken so far include:

  • UNEP and UN-HABITAT have produced a brochure on "Ecosystems and biodiversity. The Role of Cities" which offers useful information on global initiatives and the support mechanisms available for cities to protect biodiversity. To read the brochure click here >>
  • African regional workshop on "Cities, Ecosystems and Biodiversity" organized be UNEP in cooperation with the IUCN Task Force on Cities and Protected Areas, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the Brazilian Government (Nairobi, 21 September 2006)
  • Joint ICLEI/UNEP publication Viumbe hai: African Cities, Ecoystems and Biodiversity with case studies of African cities that use their biodiversity and surrounding ecosystems sustainably.
  • An international meeting organized by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and hosted by the city of Curitiba, Brazil on "Cities and Biodiversity: Achieving the 2010 Target" (26 to 28 March 2007).
  • ICLEI Local Action for Biodiversity Programme (LAB) engages 20 cities from around the world in halting the loss of biodiversity in urban areas and assists them in integrating such strategies into city planning.
  • To read more about UNEP's biodiversity activities click here >>

    Other useful links:

    Mayors Conference on biodiversity - 2008
    Mayor's Meeting on Cities and Biodiversity: Achieving the 2010 Biodiversity Target - 2007
    Convention on Biological Diversity
    Countdown 2010
    Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
    The World Conservation Union (IUCN)
    Stockholm Resilience Centre
    UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC)
    UNESCO Joint Programme on Biosphere and Society

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