Solutions for Urban Diversity: Resources and Follow-up

Resource | décembre 15, 2023

Through the knowledge generously shared by our panellists, we expanded our understanding of urban biodiversity and re-imagined our cities as critical spaces for collaboratively enhancing it. However, due to time constraints, some audience questions were left unanswered. One of our experts, Dr. Rachel Buxton, took the time to answer those questions here. We’ve also compiled a list of resources to help you learn more about how to contribute to current calls to action around urban biodiversity and how different cities’ and sectors’ are working to meet these shared goals.

In the face of climate change, what nature-based solutions are cities implementing to support their resilience and biodiversity? Last December in Montreal, COP15 (the United Nations Biodiversity Conference) ended with a landmark agreement to guide global climate action through 2030. This agreement created several ambitious targets, including one (Target 12) that focused on increasing city green and blue spaces. 

One year after COP15, this webinar featured  Clint Jacobs, Indigenous Knowledge Connector, University of Windsor, Autumn Jordan, Urban Nature Organizer, Nature Canada, Dr. Rachel Buxton, Assistant Professor, Institute of Environmental and Interdisciplinary Sciences at Carleton University, Catherine Febria, Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative Biology at University of Windsor and Janet Sumner, Executive Director, Wildlands League. 

Together they addressed how their work contributes to biodiversity targets and discussed why biodiversity is critical to a sustainable future.

  1. How can we encourage Knowledge Keeper Tables in our community with Elders in a respectful manner (while trying to avoid more extractive work)? What is the best way to approach this question to local First Nations?

    Dr. Rachel Buxton says: Approach it like you would any meaningful relationship. Ask what they need and listen. Show up (with food). Be patient and respectful - relationships take time. Look for training opportunities in your network so you know your history.

  2. How would we restore ecosystems, such as wetlands, in urban areas?

    Dr. Rachel Buxton says: It would depend on many things (local vegetation and hydrology, history of site use), but there’s tons of helpful information out there (e.g., Society for Ecological Restoration does a whole “wetland construction” workshop).

  3. With re-wilding cities, mainly with urban parks, there are positives like climate mitigation and adaptation. On the social side, these initiatives can lead to gentrification. How can we remedy that?

    This article provides real-world examples from the United States of projects that have led to green gentrification and others that have worked to combat it. The author highlights a few strategies to consider with developing new greenspaces.

    Dr. Rachel Buxton says: Work with and for communities. Using community-empowered approaches is your best bet. Lots of great research is coming out of Lorien Nesbitt’s lab on Green Gentrification: 

  4. Densification (more humans/km2) is put forward in urban planning as it favours efficient public transport, accessible services, etc. What are your views on how human densification could be combined with maintaining biodiversity (different species/km2)?

    Dr. Rachel Buxton says: Interconnected greenspace is key. It also depends on what your goal/target is. If it’s shade/cooling - trees are key. If it’s bird species richness - a network of connected greenspace is key. Also - alleviating threats to wildlife (see Bird Friendly Cities program). Our research finds that many species at risk of extinction depend on remaining habitat around urban cores (e.g., Blanding's turtles in the greenbelt around Ottawa) - saving this remaining habitat is important.


  5. Do native pollinator plants factor into how we can improve ecosystems in urban and near-urban areas?

    Yes! Check out the ButterflyWay program to learn more and see how you can get involved in increasing native pollinators in your community. 

  6. To create re-wilding in cities, what can be done at a smaller scale, such as a new park that is less than one acre in size located along an arterial road?

    Dr. Rachel Buxton says: Sometimes the best thing you can do to protect urban biodiversity is try to minimize threats to urban wildlife: get decals on windows, work on getting lights turned off at night, reduce traffic, pull invasive species, and protect an existing habitat patch. Be careful when restoring habitat close to a major road - you risk creating an ecological trap or sink.

  7. Rachel, in your introduction, you mentioned park restoration/biodiversity conservation can help mitigate racism. Can you speak more about this?

    Dr. Rachel Buxton says: Sorry, I don’t remember saying this - apologies if I gave the wrong impression! If park restoration/conservation is community-led, it could create community empowerment (e.g., food forests creating food security), but not sure it can “mitigate racism”. In fact, many people (including Jacqueline Scott of Black Outdoors and Robin Mazumder - please check them out) have pointed out the inequities of experience in outdoor urban spaces. Perhaps the sentiment was that if restoration and conservation are prioritized in the right places (e.g., marginalized neighbourhoods with low canopy cover) in the right way (community-led), there may be an opportunity to combat inequities.

  8. What can be done to convince neighbours to “leave the leaves” and abandon gas and electric leaf blowers?

    Dr. Rachel Buxton says: Be a good influence and be visible - leave your leaves, put up signs that you’re starting a “homegrown national park”, talk to your neighbours about the magic of native bees, talk to your local councillors and community associations. Also, talk to local decision-makers (e.g., I talked to someone who manages our local park about leaves being blown from under the tree canopy - which made my blood boil - and they no longer do this!)

  9. Explore these external resources to learn more about urban biodiversity

    Global Biodiversity Targets

    Indigenous Knowledge Sharing

    Species Support

    Urban Nature / National Urban Parks

    Watch the full webinar 

This webinar is generously supported by an anonymous donor, the Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation and

TD Ready Commitment
Parks Canada