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Balancing urban growth and ecological conservation: A challenge for planning and governance
November 29, 2017 • 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Applied Biodiversity Science Seminar
Presented by Dr. Burak Guneralp, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University (website)
Abstract: Urban areas, growing both in population and in land cover, will place significant pressures on the integrity of the ecosystems and biodiversity around the world. A global analysis of urban extent circa 2000 and forecast of urban expansion out to 2030 indicates that the amount of urban land within 50 km of all protected areas will triple by 2030. However, land-use policies and urban development strategies have great potential for shaping urban outcomes. In particular, Africa and China are both highly biodiverse and have been undergoing high rates and magnitudes of urbanization. The spatial distribution of urban land across Africa and China in and near the protected areas and in the biodiversity hotspots was already extensive circa 2000. By 2030, most African countries and Chinese provinces are expected to experience urban expansion near their protected areas or in biodiversity hotspots. The burgeoning urban populations, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, increase the strain on already insufficient infrastructure and bring new governance challenges. In Africa, there are existing deficiencies in policies and in knowledge base both at the individual city-level and national level that could otherwise facilitate the integration of ecosystem preservation into the urban decision-making process. In China, policies that could facilitate the integration of natural resource protection into urban planning exist on paper, but the prevailing incentives and institutional arrangements between the central and local governments prevent this kind of integration. Removing these obstacles will be necessary in order to safeguard the country’s rich biodiversity in light of the scale of urbanization underway. Overall, while socio-economic prerogatives overshadow the concerns for biodiversity, there are also promising initiatives to bring these concerns into the fold to address social, institutional, and ecological challenges that emerge with the continued urbanization.