Planetizen - Urban Planning News, Jobs, and Education

'Native Plants' Won't Save Urban Biodiversity

Part literature review, part political appeal, this article makes the case for rethinking the concept of what makes plants native—especially in the face of climate change.
June 20, 2016, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments
Bosque de Chapultepec in Mexico City.

Erle C. Ellis writes of the scientific approach to conserving biodiversity as the footprint of human settlement spreads across the planet—an approach that requires several breaks from the status quo.

First Erle argues that cities are the most important location for the fight to conserve biodiversity: "As climate change, land use, pollution, and other anthropogenic forces displace wildlife from their historical habitats, urbanizing landscapes are increasingly where the conservation action is — and needs to be."

Then Earle sets about debunking a widely held assumption about the kinds of plants that comprise urban biodiversity:

Nevertheless, a focus on native plantings as the key to biodiversity conservation in urban areas can create more problems than it can solve. To begin with, the concept of “native species” itself can be the problem.

With a bit more detail:

To define a spatial limit where a species is “native” — and where it is not — when climate is changing so rapidly may already be more of a problem than a solution.

Instead of turning the built environment into a kind of museum for biodiversity, Earle suggests instead that it's time to "embrace a dynamic vision of what it means to be native — to belong in a place — whether it is urban, agricultural, semi-natural or wild." 

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 in UGEC Viewpoints
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email