Urban ecology part five: Integrating nature into our cities

Green roof

Urban ecology part five: Integrating nature into our cities

We made it! It’s time for the final instalment of the Urban Ecology series. If you haven’t been following until now, you can read parts one to five on our blog to get up to speed. But, if you’re ready for part five, let’s jump right in.

We’ve already looked at how the nature in our cities (or lack of) can affect human and environmental health. It’s clear by now, to us and to policy-makers, that more plants, trees, and wildlife in our cities can only help to improve our health and the environment. 

So, the next challenge is figuring out the best ways to bring nature into the city cost-effectively, without altering our way of life. Brilliant architects, inventors, ecologists, and geographers are already coming up with new ways to integrate urban and natural life into the way our cities exist.

Living rooftops and walls

In our cities, we’re always hunting for more space. This often leads us to build up, with highrises and skyscrapers and accompanying urban sprawl into the suburbs. But, it’s rare we consider how much space we’re wasting by not utilising rooftops in our cities.

In 2015, France decided developers must cover all new rooftops in either solar panels or plants. Rooftop gardens are also becoming more popular in the UK. Green roofs, living roofs, living walls, and rooftop gardens come with a host of benefits to people and wildlife.

Flooding

The media has documented the UK’s problem with flooding well over the past decade. Unfortunately, as climate change worsens and we continue to cover the landscape in impermeable concrete and asphalt, the situation is only likely to become more severe. The Environment Agency stated in 2018, that since 1910, there have been 17 record-breaking rainfall months or seasons. Over half of these occurred since 2000.

Green roofs and walls help reduce the likelihood of floods by intercepting precipitation. They slow down the flow of water from the sky to the rivers through physical interception and by removing some water via the roots. When water runs over concrete through our cities and into drains, it moves quickly. It cannot sink into the ground where it slowly trickles to the rivers. Instead, it rushes to overwhelm the river’s natural ability as a drainage system causing flooding and endangering homes and memories. To stop this, the more green roofs, the better.

Pollution

Surrounding your home in vegetation in the form of living walls and diverse gardens can help clear the air in your home. Some plants are better than others at creating clean air. For example, yew is excellent at trapping air pollution.

Biodiversity

Rooftop gardens help maintain healthy levels of biodiversity in cities by providing a variety of food sources, habitats, and - as discussed in part four - green corridors. The more unkempt your garden is, the more beneficial it’s likely to be to city wildlife, including bees, other insects, and birds.

Turning the unused space on your roof into a garden can help support native species, reduce flooding, and even create a place to grow your own food. It’s a simple step anyone with a suitable roof can take as long as your property can support it. But there are other ways we are bringing nature into our cities.

Green architecture

More architects are using geographical and ecological research to build designs that focus on nature preservation while protecting our urban lifestyles. For example, in Milan, the Bosco Verticale, or vertical forest, is a pair of residential towers standing at 111 and 76 meters tall. Their balconies contain over 900 trees creating the visual effect of a vertical forest, yet this block of apartments is still livable.

The towers create their own microclimate, keeping residents cool in the summer, creating humidity, absorbing CO2, producing oxygen, and removing air pollutants. The trees also provide a welcome home to native birds and insects that live in the city. They constantly change with the seasons, changing colour and adding a pleasing aesthetic design.

This green architecture should be more prevalent in our cities. It combines beauty, functionality, a high-quality of living, and environmental benefits to create a more logical and beneficial way of life.

Until more architects focus on incorporating nature into the very essence of their designs and our city planners take sustainability seriously, it’s likely these green designs will remain scarce. But, in the meantime, it’s our job to lobby for more nature in our cities, to make a fuss, demand better environments for ourselves to live in, and to make small changes ourselves. Simply letting your garden run a little wild could make a huge difference.

If you enjoyed this series, why not take a look at the rest of the Coster Content blog? It’s where we share fantastic tips on sharing engaging content to increase your leads and how to turn your passions into content your audience will love. If you would like a more personal introduction into how to use the power of content marketing to grow your business, all you need to do is get in touch with us on 0161 413 8418 for a friendly chat.

Alia CosterComment