Cities are increasingly known as mosaics of green, grey, and blue infrastructure, which interact in complex ways to influence the well-being of urban residents. Specifically, blue and green infrastructure offers essential advantages to urban residents. Such as flood protection from urban wetlands and forests, enhanced mental health from greener roads. Park visitation, and food production from community gardens.
This environmental infrastructure also supports key wildlife populations in urban areas. But with this new perspective of cities comes a fundamental challenge.
How to incorporate specialized knowledge and ecologically-sound management practices into urban planning? To be able to keep natural areas and encourage municipal ecosystem services.
As critical infrastructure can float without proper maintenance and care, blue and green infrastructure—and the benefits it offers—can break down. If urban ecosystems are not adequately managed.
Improper selection of street trees may result in increased allergen vulnerability or property loss. Failure to adequately maintain forested areas in or near cities may cause infrastructure destruction. When wildfires occur, and unfamiliarity with animal migration corridors may result in car accidents and reduction of both animal and human life.
Additional complexities include understanding the social facts of the workers that are maintaining urban blue and green infrastructure. In addition to navigating the values and tastes of the multicultural communities which make up today’s cities.
Managing ecosystems is not easy; it requires an understanding of the environment of these ecosystems–how living organisms. Relate and interact with one another and their environment, as well as the socioecology of cities.
The way human, built, blue and green infrastructure, ecosystems, and social-economic systems interact across metropolitan regions. To put it differently, decision-making must draw on and efficiently incorporate urban ecology and urban planning/management knowledge.
So as to move towards Canadian cities, our governments will need to embrace a collaborative systems approach. Where collaboration and dialogue among urban arborists, planners, managers, landscape architects, and ecologists are the standard instead of the exception.
Integration Of Urban Ecology And Planning
Eighty percent of Canadians that live in cities are directly affected when temperatures increase affected. Urbanization results in flood or species changes lead to the battle in cities. Urban ecology focuses on subjects that have direct consequences for urban ecosystem services. That contributes to human health in urban areas and consequently can provide valuable information. Regarding how to handle the areas where most Canadians live.
However, regardless of the rapid increase in focus to urban ecosystems across the world, there has been relatively little focus on urban ecosystems. The Canadian environmental community in comparison to other areas. Instead, there was an emphasis on ecology in “natural” regions, or manufacturing systems (e.g., forestry, agriculture), which cities do not readily fit into.
By way of instance, an urban ecology session has just been a part of the two latest annual conventions of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution. Regardless of the organization’s 13-year history. If Canadians want to develop sustainable cities where blue and green infrastructure is efficiently managed. Urban ecosystems research that may inform–and is advised by–urban planning has to be accelerated, supported, and valued.
Additionally, urban planning and ecology research in Canada work too frequently in parallel, rather than cooperatively. Certain critical challenges to productive collaboration exist in towns. Academics and town staff may have different objectives, unequal comprehension of the issues of urban residents. So ask different kinds of questions.
Decision-makers and planners must work within the constraints of budgets and economic systems that are unfamiliar to ecologists. Various professions often speak different “disciplinary languages” that have to be bridged. Early career researchers (e.g., postdocs, students) may be new to a region or on a short term contract thereby lacking the connections or time to build the relationships needed for co-produced work.
Academic incentive structures may not adequately support or encourage the collaboration of the type. In Canada, it’s a specific challenge that national agencies explicitly group financing for social science (SSHRC) natural science (NSERC), and health research (CIHR). This means there’s limited support for research that investigates complex urban socio-ecological systems.
Increasing awareness of urban ecosystems in Canada, though, offers a chance to make sure that urban ecologists work together with Canadian urban decision-makers/planners. To create rigorous and practical solutions for Canada’s cities. Move towards more resilient and sustainable cities, we must unite Canadian urban ecology researchers and professionals. To discover and implement solutions to urban environmental problems.
The Question Is How To Do This?
We can look towards several Canadian case studies as examples of urban ecosystems initiatives that strongly transform disciplinary boundaries and overcome some of the challenges mentioned above to connect ecologists and partners for the advantage of Canadian cities and their citizens.
The following three examples (led by members of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution’s inaugural urban ecology conference in 2017) show the benefits of building partnerships between researchers and practitioners, linking environmental knowledge to individuals, and talking the language of urban authorities.
Case Study 1: Managing Urban Invasive Species
The District of North Saanich, British Columbia, progressively has to take care of invasive species that threaten natural areas and parks. By way of instance, a recent invasion by Carpet Burweed has decreased the use and enjoyment of public spaces for recreation. But, dealing with invasive species could be extremely expensive and maybe controversial because some people like debatable species.
Faced with difficult decisions about invasive removal, North Saanich staff recognized the potential for ecologists to advise on the best approaches. In 2012, North Saanich formed an Invasive Species Management Strategy that was widely successful. It gives clear direction and a coordinated approach for managing the invasive species and has subsequently been a model for other locations. Integral to this achievement was the establishment of strong partnerships involving ecologists, planners, municipal staff, and the general public.
The Strategy has mostly been successful since it had been developed through an inclusive process that let it be harmonized with other local municipal and provincial strategies, policies, and laws. The procedure comprised exhibitions and publication of extensive educational stuff; facilitator-led workshops and meetings with politicians, management, operations personnel, volunteers, and the general public; and an Open House and internet survey to facilitate input from the general public.
This comprehensive consultation method introduced the public to the logistic, technical, and political problems of invasive species management. This was critical to take care of challenges like cooperation and sharing of resources across different municipalities within the area.
The inclusive process helped acquaint the urban ecology contributions to the plan and their harmonization with the policy aims of North Saanich and provided a valuable learning opportunity for those ecologists involved. By way of instance, urban ecologists helped to create “Watch Lists” to identify which species should be publicized amongst employees and the general public to report new sightings.
Ecologists also guided removal and management efforts for profoundly affected public areas, prioritizing the elimination of species that influence critical ecosystem processes (e.g., Garlic mustard) or present public health dangers (e.g., Giant hogweed). In the end, ecologists worked with the municipality team to ascertain which species should be kept at current levels rather than abolished, which frees municipalities from a public pressure to undertake expensive and frequently unfeasible complete eradication of invasive species.
Ecologists, in turn, learned how to effectively operate within the political and regulatory framework familiar to urban planners and decision-makers. Guidelines integrated into the Strategy could not be based solely on environmental values, but had to agree with the principles and goals of many additional plans (e.g., the Saanich Park and Natural Areas Guidelines, Bylaw Regulations and Regulations, and Provincial and Federal Environmental Protection Legislation, to mention just a few).
Under the substantial involvement of volunteers and community organizations in regional invasive species management and the development of this Strategy, ecologists also obtained insight into community participated approaches to science, which are often outside the standard academic repertoire. Taking adequate time to make sure that all involved groups were “talking the same language” was a crucial part of long-term success.
Case Study 2: Offering Guidance For Urban Forest Climate Adaptation And Layout
Metro Vancouver–a federation of 21 municipalities, one Electoral Area and one Treaty First Nation that collaboratively plans for and provides regional-scale services. Recognized climate adaptation as an essential part of the building and maintaining a livable area. Consequently, the city is presently integrating climate adaptation into its own policies and regulations to conserve biodiversity and improve the quality of life.
Urban forests, such as park woods and street trees, were identified as a specific policy focus on account of their contribution to numerous ecosystem services and their role in climate adaptation. However, practical region-specific advice on how best to plan and manage urban forests. Within the developed environment and in a dynamic climate was lacking.
To discuss this knowledge gap, urban foresters, an advisory panel of planners, and ecologists worked together to promote the Urban Forest Climate Adaptation Framework and Design Guidebook according to the latest science. This work comprises a tree species choice database to encourage decision making. Multiple perspectives were critical to finalizing those recommendations crucial.
The database has been specifically designed to manage the practical difficulties of a tree. Survival in severe conditions (a common planning justification for the planting of non-native trees) against the need to be careful about planting invasive species (a value often taken by ecologists and conservation groups). Managing this challenge needed careful consideration and discussion of the concerns and goals of different stakeholders. Including the negotiation of values held by various parties.
Discussions ultimately resulted in a compromise among ecologists and planners in a settlement, recognizing the validity of arguments on each side. This compromise included the addition of a robust communications plan around invasive species. Built into the resultant products and support to prioritize indigenous plantings in locations in close proximity to natural areas. But without diminishing non-native trees from the guide altogether.
The formation of the Framework and design Guidebook illustrates the need for interdisciplinary collaboration to create healthy, evidence-based suggestions for urban planning. Those included in the process also highlighted the significance of recognizing the unique levers and barriers. For each stakeholder group to make advancement, and the necessity to take the time to tailor their messages appropriately.
Planners discovered to be open to the suggestions of ecologists, while ecologists subsequently learned the importance of recognizing values beyond their own. And of adapting their language and messages to a new audience.
The next step of the project involves looking at ways to improve the simplicity and accessibility of the information. Various end-users, which is crucial to support the implementation of urban forest plans. Climate adaptation plans across the Metro Vancouver area. A promising early success has been the Framework’s incorporation into the University of British Columbia’s Urban Forestry Experts Program. Which educates the next generation of foresters.
Case study 3: Partners In Action- A Shade Policy In Toronto For Skin Cancer Prevention
It’s not often that dermatologists, physicians, health consultants, researchers, urban foresters, planners, architects, landscape architects, urban designers, and employees have come together to address a common aim. However, the development of Toronto’s shade policy represents a synergy linking UV radiation awareness and skin cancer prevention. With the civic design, city planning, urban forestry, public health, and health promotion policy.
Integrating this expertise of these diverse groups to inform Policy in the most populous city of Canada. Illustrates the strength of building different partnerships across academia, practitioners, and other stakeholders. The importance of aligning ecological knowledge with critical urban policy goals.
The provision of shade (natural, built, and portable ) is a primary method of preventing skin cancer caused by environmental UV radiation. Public Policy to support shade development is an integral part of skin cancer inhibition. The TCPC — UVRWG (Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition Ultraviolet Radiation Working Group), successfully place shade on the town’s cancer prevention agenda through collaborative pilot projects.
Even though the goals of the group motivated, an ecological perspective was essential to the success of this strategy. As outdoor access to shade is due to urban planning, site design, and landscaping choices, requiring knowledge of urban forestry.
The creation of such a large, interdisciplinary group, as TCPC-UVRWG signifies, presented challenges in negotiating various perspectives and programs. Ensuring that every member was heard necessitated the creation of mechanisms everybody had an opportunity to contribute or to talk. Especially in a scenario where a wide variety of professional and educational backgrounds were represented. Ultimately, this representation was crucial to the success of the policy.
The City of Toronto has become the first city in Canada to have implemented a Shade Policy (2015), including guidelines for the choice of shade trees. The official nature of this policy has led to an increased awareness of the connection between public health and green spaces. At both institutional and the general levels. Additionally, many communities across Canada have since proposed the TCPC for help in promoting their own shade policies. Promoting urban forestry initiatives in cities more broadly.
Urban ecosystems knowledge, urban planning, and policy are increasingly important as Canadians seek to promote human well-being. Also, biodiversity concerns in cities need to be addressed. The call is how to do this effectively in the sophisticated social-ecological landscapes cities represent. Our case studies illustrate how urban ecology, when attentive to governmental, social, and practical factors. That comes into play when handling urban systems. That can help inform urban management and result in positive results.
Key to this are processes that promote communication and understanding between the diverse groups involved in urban planning. Urban Ecologists, mainly, must be ready to accommodate their language and strategy for new audiences. Embrace the requirement for compromise when faced with alternative value systems.
Also, improve incentives within the Canadian university system for this kind of work required. Including more opportunities to build long-term research partnerships with city governments. In the meantime, urban ecosystems and executives in Canada and worldwide. Whether working for the government or as part of NGO or academic organizations should continue to strive. To work collaboratively to assure that urban management strategies are based on sound, current, and relevant ecological knowledge.