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International study backs urban green spaces

International study backs urban green spaces

The value of green spaces in cities has been highlighted in a new study, which found that providing a diverse range of habitats in urban areas can help retain native species. The study, published in the well-respected international journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, analysed lists of plants in 110 cities and birds in 54 cities from around the world including Hamilton, New Zealand.

The international research team – including Professor Bruce Clarkson from the University of Waikato - found that cities retained about 8% of bird species and 25% of plant species when compared to similar areas of undeveloped land. Though these losses were considerable, the study argued the fact that native species do remain in smaller numbers in cities is reason to be optimistic.

Professor Clarkson says the research team was “pleasantly surprised” at the overall results of the survey. “We found that cities support surprisingly high numbers of plant and bird species.

However, cities have also lost significant biodiversity with urbanisation, this is especially so in New Zealand.”

“New Zealand cities have much higher proportions of naturalised introduced birds and plants than elsewhere in the world so enhancement of existing natural areas, weed and pest control and reconstruction of new indigenous-dominated habitat is more important in New Zealand cities like Hamilton” he says.

Report lead-author Dr Myla Aronson from Rutgers University in New Jersey, says the study “opens the door for new policies on regional and global biodiversity conservation”.

“In particular, the study highlights the value of green space in cities, which have become important refuges for native species and migrating wildlife. Conserving green spaces, restoring natural plant species and adding biodiversity friendly habitats within urban landscapes could, in turn, support more bird and plant species.”

Professor Clarkson says this research is particularly relevant to the current debate about adding 5.1 hectares of land adjacent to Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park into this Hamilton reserve.


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