Cities should plan to protect nature as climate changes
Setting aside cool, south-facing slopes in our cities as nature refuges will increase the chances of survival of our vulnerable native species in the face of global heating. Our Climate Advocate Adelia Hallett writes more.
New research by Victoria University’s Faculty of Architecture and Design, published today, says that city planning has a critical role to play in helping New Zealand’s native fauna cope with a warming planet.
“Although protecting south-facing slopes does not guarantee that biodiversity will be able to adapt, this study suggests that there are still potential opportunities for establishing urban development strategies that can help ensure the conservation of wildlife against the impacts of rising temperatures,” the paper says.
Many of New Zealand’s native plants and animals already face extinction because of things that humans have done, including habitat destruction, pollution and the introduction of foreign pests and diseases. Human-induced climate change, bringing more storms, droughts and pests and diseases as well as rising temperatures, could be the final nail in the coffin for some species.
In a report released in October, scientists brought together by the International Panel on Climate Change warned that letting warming get to more than 1.5deg could be catastrophic for both humans and nature.
While the world’s focus is (rightly) on cutting greenhouse gas emissions to prevent catastrophic levels of heating, we also need to think about how we – and nature – are going to cope with the amount of warming that is now unavoidable.
Making sure that species caught by rising temperatures have somewhere cool to go – as suggested in today’s report – is one practical measure we can start putting in place now.
The study, by Amin Rastandeh, Maibritt Pedersen Zari, Daniel Brown and Robert Vale, uses Wellington as a case study and warns that plans to build an extra 21,400 houses in the city by 2043 could destroy the few remaining places where native species are safe.
It is vital that towns and cities across New Zealand start planning now to help nature adjust to global heating. In Auckland, Forest & Bird is working with the council, Department of Conservation and community groups to create a “wild-link” that will allow species to move across the city between Waitemata Harbour to the Waitakere Ranges.
If we want to still be able to walk out our backdoor and see our amazing native species, we need to factor nature into our climate adaptation planning.