Building in biodiversity For climate, for health


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Our cities: Ecological deserts or biodiverse hotspots? According to the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, around 1 million animal and plant species are currently threatened with extinction. This report finds that the health of the ecosystems we depend on is deteriorating more rapidly than ever, affecting the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. In this Urban Insight report, experts show how urban design can make our cities part of the solution.


The loss of biodiversity, deforestation and desertification poses major challenges to sustainable development and has affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

The way we are accustomed to designing our cities, with paved streets and grand buildings, has proven to be less resilient to the effects of climate change. Removing trees and other vegetation and using impervious materials in urban areas have impaired normal ecosystem functions such as the circulation of carbon, water and vital nutrients.

The lack of vegetation exposes us to pollutants, heat waves, vector-borne diseases and other negative effects of climate change. Rich and healthy ecosystems provide us with many benefits and are vital to our survival. As a result of increased urbanisation, cities have a big impact and can contribute to increased biodiversity.

By interconnecting land use planning, infrastructure, architecture and buildings to find the full potential for maximising ecosystem services in these urban structures, we would be able to increase both biodiversity and well-being”, Tarja Ojala, ecologist and forest engineer.

Preserving natural environments, forests and biodiversity in urban areas is vital for sustaining life and plays a major role in the fight against climate change.

Exactly how are biodiversity and health connected to each other, and what role do ecosystem services play in this?  Read on to better understand the true challenges we face due to the loss of biodiversity and the benefits we gain from more a diverse natural environment.