Biodiversity is the splendour of life on this planet—the intricately linked mix of flora and fauna that sustains us. And yet biodiversity is under threat due to degraded and fragmented habitats from urbanization and increased ecosystem stress from climate change.
In 2017, the World Wildlife Fund-Canada reported that 50% of monitored species in Canada are in decline, including federally protected at-risk species. And Canadian researchers have warned that bee populations are in severe decline, putting at risk the pollination required by nearly 75% of food crops.
In Canada, some of the areas most rich in biodiversity are also the areas most densely settled, making biodiversity both an urban challenge and opportunity. As places where nature and people come together in cities, our local parks have a large role to play in protecting and enhancing biodiversity—and increasing our understanding of its importance to our planet and to our lives.
That’s why we’ve focused this section on a special look at urban biodiversity, diving deep into its impacts on our well-being, how small spaces add up to big impacts, why we need to increase habitat connectivity, and what we can do to deepen the conversation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only bolstered arguments for the importance of access to nature and healthy ecosystems. Stories from across the country showed how people found new relief in exploring natural spaces, running outdoors, and using parks to decompress.
As the stories in this section show, biodiversity is a key ingredient in the resiliency of both our ecosystems and our mental health.
- Nearly two thirds of cities reported protecting biodiversity and enhancing natural areas as a top challenge, while only 1 in 5 reported having a citywide biodiversity strategy in place.
- Nature experiences are in demand as 70% of cities reported increasing demand for park naturalization projects and 56% of cities reported increasing demand for volunteer stewardship opportunities.
- As extreme weather continues to impact parks, nearly three quarters of cities reported increasing demand for green infrastructure like rain gardens and bioswales that can help mitigate impacts, but few cities have citywide green infrastructure strategies in place that include parks.
- Recognize and promote the psychological well-being benefits of biodiversity and use public health as a “doorway” to bring new people into the conversation, especially as the COVID-19 response turns to addressing an increasing mental health crisis.
- Leverage the attachment people have to their local neighbourhoods to promote small-scale projects like pollinator gardens that make urban biodiversity tangible for people, and use them as springboards into wider environmental conversations.
- Work towards the protection and restoration of natural spaces—large and small—but ensure they are also connected through biodiversity corridors at the multiple scales of neighbourhood, city, and region.
Park People thanks the RBC Foundation for their support of the special biodiversity focus area and the online biodiversity resource library.