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Urban Biodiversity: Why it matters

Urban Biodiversity: Why it matters

Think piece by Dr. Danielle Shanahan

For too long nature in Aotearoa New Zealand was confined to far-away places and offshore islands.

From the very first attempted translocation of kākāpō in the late 1800s, moving species away from people to remote locations has been the backbone of our efforts to prevent the catastrophic loss of many species. While that heroic effort meant that species like tīeke and tuatara still exist today, it also meant that only the most fortunate people could connect with much of our native wildlife.

In Wellington, we are turning that approach on its head. Kākā, once extinct from the region, can now be found in people’s backyards. Kererū adorn most power poles, having rebounded from just a few pairs in the 1990s. Community groups are planting trees and eradicating rats, and we are seeing wētā and bird numbers climb as a result.

We have become a community that takes action for our environment.

At the same time, nature is giving back.

Compelling research shows that spending time in nature reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, while improving mental clarity and creativity. Our most recent Wellington-based research shows that getting involved in environmental action provides people with even further benefits—when we care for nature it cares for us.

Greenspaces act as lungs for the city, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, helping combat climate change. They act as natural filters, purifying the air and water, and mitigating the effects of pollution.

At Zealandia we aim to inspire change in how people live with nature in cities globally. Our research collaborations seek to discover how we can design urban developments and landscapes to embrace, not exclude nature. This approach will improve outcomes for nature, and people.


Photo credit: Judi Lapsley Miller

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