In recent years, evaluating and using ecosystem services (ES) to identify and prioritize conservation efforts has skyrocketed in popularity across the globe. In urban areas, ES (also known as nature benefits) have spanned the gamut from water filtration to hiking opportunities. In collaboration with researchers at University of Queensland, I focus on understanding how socio-demographic context around urban green spaces can influence ES delivery. For example, a park surrounded by residents of culture A may not value park recreational opportunities as would residents of culture B. For some services to be realized, the beneficiaries have to perceive and desire them. That distinction is not yet apparent in much of the planning and management literature around urban ES. Understanding the role of socio-demographics in urban ES will help conservation and urban planners better design and manage urban green spaces to maximize the benefits those areas will actually provide urbanites.
Prioritizing urban conservation
Conservation decisions always require prioritization and trade-offs. When deciding whether or not to invest in conservation in heavily-developed urban areas versus in rural, still “wild” areas, the choice may seem easy. However, my colleagues at University of Melbourne and Queensland and I would argue that the choice is more nuanced. A major consideration in nature conservation is risk of loss. The risk of habitat or species loss in an undeveloped urban area will often be much higher than in an area where there are larger swathes of habitat and greater biodiversity. We maintain that using counterfactuals (scenarios where no conservation intervention happens) can help planners identify areas of high risk and better evaluate the true tradeoffs when deciding whether or not to invest in urban conservation efforts.
Manuscript in review
Linking urban ecology with urban planning & design
Biodiversity is a buzz word thrown about often in all sorts of urban circles. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the green infrastructure movements all over the world. Conserving and promoting biodiversity in urban environments will only happen through active communication and collaboration between ecologists and other scientists and the planners and designers actively shaping the urban form. To help promote this, I have joined forces with colleagues from Melbourne and Brisbane universities to develop a conceptual paper highlighting the major principles of urban biodiversity conservation. We use language and concepts that are transferrable across the fields and include examples of how these principles can be integrated into planning & design to the betterment of our valued urban biodiversity.
Manuscript in prep