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June 2021

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 21 jun 2021

According to the 2019 Reuter's report based on a study by Center for American Progress titled 'How Much Nature Should America Keep', the US needs to set a goal to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030 to stem the rapid decline of natural areas, which will protect the country from the worst impacts of climate change and wildlife extinction. The report mentioned that the US has lost 24 million acres (9712455.41 hectares) of natural area, between 2001 and 2017 due to agriculture, energy development, housing sprawl and other human factors. This phenomenon is happening worldwide and many countries and cities are working to create open spaces and 'rewild' their communities to combat the global loss of nature. Rewilding restores an area to its original, uncultivated state, shifting away from the centuries-long practice of controlling and managing nature for human need. It incorporates both the old and the new, allowing wildness to reclaim an area and/or incorporating new elements of architectural or landscape design, like growing greenery on the facades of buildings. Rewilding is generally carried out in wild areas that have gone through deforestation. Many rewilding projects aim to restore biodiversity in an ecosystem. But now many cities are trying to rewild. Rewilding in urban areas might include reintroducing native plant species, building parks on empty lots, incorporating more biophilic design when building new structures, or simply allowing nature to reclaim space. A major draw to rewilding in urban areas is the proven positive impact of nature on human health - particularly for city-dwellers with less access to outdoor spaces. Following are the select 8 cities that are significantly embarking upon rewilding - (1) Singapore: The Gardens by the Bay have transformed Singapore from a 'Garden city' to a 'City in a Garden'. 18 'Supertrees' are dispersed throughout the landscape. They are not living things themselves, but these trees are home to over 158000 plants and mimic the functions of regular trees by providing shade, filtering rainwater, and absorbing heat. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is also an example of rewilding in Singapore, incorporating elements of water-sensitive urban design and reducing the urban heat island effect in the city. Beyond parks, Singapore maintains more than 90 miles of Nature Ways - canopied corridors that connect green spaces, facilitating the movement of animals and butterflies from one natural area to another throughout the city. Singapore has also developed a City Biodiversity Index to examine and track the progress of biodiversity and conservation projects. (2) Nottingham, United Kingdom: The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has proposed a new vision for the empty Broadmarsh shopping center in the city - an urban oasis of wetlands, woodlands, and wildflowers. Replacing these 6 acres of development could set a precedent for how such spaces are redeveloped in the future. (3) Haerbin, China: The city of Haerbin which is the capital of China's northernmost province and which sees 60-70% of its annual precipitation from June-August, has taken a creative approach to address flooding by fostering a wetland in the middle of the city. The Qunli National Urban Wetland provides invaluable ecosystem services - collecting and filtering stormwater into the aquifer, recovering a native habitat vital to the surrounding ecosystem, and supplying a place for recreation in the city with a network of raised paths and viewing towers for visitors. (4) Dublin, Ireland: One-third of bee populations in Ireland are threatened with extinction, so the country has begun retiring their lawnmowers and letting grasses grow high. Dublin created a 2015-2020 Biodiversity Action Plan, aimed at reducing mowing and herbicide use in parks, roadsides, and other green spaces. By letting native plants grow instead of maintaining monocropped, chemical-laden lawns, native insect, bird, and bee populations thrive. 80% of the city's green spaces are now 'pollinator-friendly'. (5) Sydney and Melbourne, Australia: Australia has caught on to the biophilic cities movement - a different design approach that brings nature and urbanites together, welcomes back native species, and makes even the densest cities more 'natureful'. The biophilic One Central Park in Chippendale – a suburb of Sydney – is known for its vertical hanging gardens, which incorporate 35200 plants of 383 different species more than 1120 square meters of the building's surface. Melbourne has also taken similar action with the Green Our City strategic action plan, which outlines how nature can be brought back into the city through green walls and roofs. (6) Hanover, Frankfurt, and Dessau, Germany: As a part of the Städte Wagen Wildnis ('Cities Venturing into Wilderness', or 'Cities Dare Wilderness') Project, Hanover, Frankfurt, and Dessau, Germany have agreed to set aside plots in cities – such as the sites of former buildings, parks, vacant lots, etc. – where nature will be allowed to take over. The resulting wildflower gardens and untamed nature will create new habitats for plant and animal species, and thus will increase the overall biodiversity of these cities. (7) New York City, United States: On the site of a former elevated railroad, the High Line gardens have become a staple attraction of Manhattan. The High Line gardeners work to facilitate the natural processes occurring in this landscape, allowing plants to compete, spread out, and grow/change as they would in nature. a valuable habitat for native butterflies, birds, and insects – and, of course, the hundreds of plant species covering its surface. (8) Barcelona, Spain: After the six-week coronavirus-induced lockdown in April'2020, the population of Barcelona found that the city was bursting with growth. With parks closed, nature had begun to reclaim spaces. In May and June of 2020, the Urban Butterfly Monitor Scheme found significant increases in biodiversity - 28% more species per park overall, 74% more butterflies, and an explosion of plant growth during the spring rains that supplied more insects for birds to feed on. Inspired by these changes, the city is now working to create 49000 square meters of 'greened' streets and 783300 of green open space. Furthermore, beehives and insect hotels have been dispersed throughout the city, as well as 200 bird- and bat-nesting towers to encourage even more biodiversity. Read on...

EcoWatch: 8 Cities Rewilding Their Urban Spaces
Author: Linnea Harris



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