Urban sprawl in California

A U.N. study released this week suggests the world’s urban areas will more than double in size by 2030, presenting an opportunity to build greener and healthier cities.

According to Reuters, the study went on to state that simple planning measures (like more parks, trees or roof gardens) could make cities less polluted and help protect plants and animals — especially in emerging nations led by China and India where city growth will be fastest.

The news agency quotes Thomas Elmqvist of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and scientific editor of the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook: “Rich biodiversity can exist in cities and is extremely critical to people’s health and well-being.”

The study was conducted by the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity. It says the world’s urban population is expected to surge from just over 3.5 billion now to 4.9 billion by 2030.
“Most of this growth is expected to happen in small and medium-sized cities, not in megacities,” the report said.

Reuters went on to describe the study in further detail. The study states that more green spaces in cities can filter dust and pollution and soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Some studies have shown that the presence of trees can help reduce asthma and allergies for children living nearby, it said.

Additionally, the study said that cities were also home to a wide range of animals and plants.

More than 65 percent of Poland’s bird species are reportedly found in Warsaw. In South Africa, Table Mountain national park, rich in wildlife, is surrounded by the Cape Town municipality. In the United States, Saguaro national park is just outside Tucson.

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More tree cover in cities can help cool them in summers, meaning less need for air conditioning, the report said.

“Recent studies highlight the importance of even small urban gardens in providing habitat for native pollinators such as bees, which have declined alarmingly in recent years,” the study added.

Reuters also reports that the study also pointed to real estate arguments for a greener city.

In the United States “city parks increase the value of nearby residential properties by an average of 5 percent; excellent parks can provide a 15 percent increase,” it said.

Elmqvist reportedly went on to say that for the next 40 years, urban growth will consume land approximately three times the size of France, which often contains the most prime agricultural land.

This week’s study was issued to coincide with a U.N. meeting on biodiversity in Hyderabad, India.

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