Cities and Bio-diversity

Urbanization creates new challenges for biodiversity conservation. As a large part of the world’s population moves from rural to urban areas, there are changes in the link between human activities and biodiversity, and consequently to the way we should think about biodiversity conservation policies. However, scarce attention has been given to understand how to make cities more biodiversity friendly.

Biodiversity contributes in numerous direct and indirect ways to human economy. Several studies have highlighted the significant role that biodiversity plays for the provision of ecosystem services that are essential to human well-being. The conservation of biodiversity, particularly beyond protected areas, can be the foundation of a green and sustainable economy.

City governments are fundamental to implement international environmental agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Even though many of them are not directly involved in the negotiation of international agreements, which are signed by national governments, most of those agreements are in fact implemented at the city level. The importance of city governance to tackle the challenges of biodiversity loss which has increased as urban populations have grown enormously in the last decades, particularly in developing countries. The way cities are designed, planned and governed influences the magnitude of their direct and indirect impacts on biodiversity.

Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity

This report analyzes the general relationships among cities, local governance, and biodiversity. Initially, it will examine the relationships between cities and biodiversity by looking at the major influences cities can have on biodiversity loss or on conservation within and outside the city boundaries, as well as at the benefits of biodiversity conservation for cities, such as the provision of ecosystem services. The report then moves to understand the main instruments and governance mechanisms that exist, allowing cities to effectively implement the directives of CBD. The Sustainable Urban Futures Programme is in active partnership with the CBD. For more information please Read More.

Local Action for Biodiversity

On implementation of CBD at the local level, the Sustainable Urban Futures Programme collaborates with ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center.

Local Action for Biodiversity (LAB) is a global biodiversity programme coordinated by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability in partnership with IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

LAB works intensively with local governments, using the lessons learned to inform and lend credibility to global advocacy and policy formulation; while the research of UNU-IAS synthesizes such information and helps to mainstreams it into the United Nations system.

For more information contact the LAB team at lab[at] or visit the LAB website at

Land Use

One of the core projects studies the role of urban ecosystems in sustainability and local well-being, paying special attention to local culture and values for enhancing local ecosystem services and biodiversity, and thus contributing to improve quality of life in cities and reducing urban ecological footprints. A project based in Brazil is related to land use. It looks at the potential of urban green and blue space and infrastructure for co-benefits. This project focuses on the protected areas of the so called Sao Paulo green belt, where high biodiversity, cultural ecosystems and important drinking water reservoirs coexist with small scale agriculture and rapid, unregulated urbanization (favela). Areas that are being further explored include: mitigation benefits (e.g.heat island control, C storage in soils, water bodies and vegetation, reduction of food miles), biodiversity conservation and local wellbeing (including drinking water provisioning and local economic development).