Monitoring urban biodiversity
Local efforts to conserve and enhance biodiversity confer a multitude of benefits to municipalities and their citizens. However, it is not always clear which efforts are the most effective in generating such benefits. For this reason, we need appropriate monitoring systems that allow us to evaluate the impacts of our actions through the assessment of biodiversity statuses and trends.
Biodiversity monitoring systems usually comprise a set of indicators that are carefully chosen to reflect important characteristics of biodiversity such as diversity of species, coverage of natural vegetation and fragmentation of habitats, but also the efficacy of governance and level of public awareness. Indicators allow us to gauge reality in a simple but meaningful way.
The advantages of indicators for assessing municipal biodiversity efforts are manifold. To name a few, they:
- Prove the effectiveness of current measures;
- Mark progress towards a diverse and healthy living environment;
- Improve citizens’ and decision-makers’ acceptance and support for biodiversity measures by affirming the benefits with solid facts and figures.
- Identify shortcomings that can be addressed with targeted responses;
- Allow for efficient and target-oriented allocation of funds;
- Unmask the ineffective allocation of funds; and
- Allow you to compare your progress with other municipalities.
There are in fact numerous different indicator systems in existence and their heterogeneity threatens to overwhelm political decision-makers, ministries, administrations and planning authorities, potentially obscuring meaningful overviews of biodiversity.
The loss of biodiversity happens at a local level but on a global scale. Indeed, the important role that local authorities and cities play in the fight against globally declining biodiversity gained official recognition at the 9th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, May 2008. Following this recognition, the CBD convened a large group of experts to develop a set of indicators specifically for monitoring urban biodiversity. The result is the so-called “Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity” – or Singapore Index – which is currently being trialled in cities such as Brussels, Montreal, Nagoya and Singapore, where the development of the index was first initiated.
For the purpose of this competition, we have shortened and adapted the Singapore Index to better suit the countries and broadened its applicability to encompass rural towns and villages.