Scientists have recognised, studied and acknowledged climate change since the early 20th-century. Now, as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity (2011–2020) ends, many studies are emerging showing the precarious nature of our climate and ecosystems. These studies highlight the vital importance of biodiversity in our day-to-day lives and our future.
In 2020, according to a major report by the conservation group WWF, wildlife populations have fallen by more than two-thirds in less than 50 years. According to the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, we now see that around 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction – many within decades. The report, created by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, found that the health of ecosystems is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. This deterioration affects the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.
The loss of biodiversity, deforestation and desertification pose major challenges to sustainable development and have 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 like the circulation of carbon, water and 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 commodities and are vital to our survival. With increasing urbanisation, cities can either have a negative impact or can contribute positively by increasing biodiversity.
How are biodiversity and health connected to each other, and what role do ecosystem services play in this? This report addresses the challenges we face due to the loss of biodiversity and the benefits we gain from more a diverse natural urban environment.
Four global sustainable development goals (SDGs) are in focus in this report.
Biodiversity – lost and found well-being from nature
Ecosystem services – providing health and resilience
Future cities – design inspired by nature
Conclusions and recommendations
About the authors