Habitat and biodiversity in the ‘Urban Century’

This month, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) released “Nature in the Urban Century”, a report on the rising threat that urban growth and the proximity of people to wildlife will have on habitat loss. Dubbed the “urban century,” the report details the challenges of managing urban growth. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be 2.4 billion more people in cities than today. That is an urban growth rate “equivalent to building a city with the population of London every seven weeks”!

Urbanization is a leading factor in habitat loss, but better planning and focus on sustainable development can allow for more integration of habitats into cities.

With urban growth and the expansion of cities, protected lands are becoming increasingly close to human development. The study estimates that by 2030, forty percent of protected areas will be within 50 kilometers of a city. These protected areas provide critical carbon storage that can help mitigate climate change.

Blue Raster developed two mapping application for the report. The first shows the impact of urban growth on habitat, protected areas and carbon at the country level. The tabs along the map and the country popups show users how many square kilometers of habitat is lost to urban growth, the current percent and 2030 projected percent increase of protected areas that are adjacent to urban areas, and the carbon loss from expanding cities.

Habitat Story Map

Habitat Story Map

The second map looks at the relationship of urban growth trends and specific protected areas of urban-threatened species. The density of urban-caused habitat loss projected out to 2030 is viewed with existing urban areas, and highlights places where managing protected areas and urban biodiversity near cities is most important.

Habitat Story Map

The Nature in the Urban Century report states that while there’s still time to protect critical habitat even as cities grow, it will take concerted planning. Left unchecked, over the next two decades urban growth will threaten more than 290,000 km2 of habitat, an area larger than New Zealand. It’s up to local cities, national governments and international institutions to work together to look at the benefits generated by biodiversity and set specific goals for urban conservation efforts.

Click here to view the full report