From Reuters:

The world’s urban areas will more than double in size by 2030, presenting an opportunity to build greener and healthier cities, a U.N. study showed on Monday. Simple planning measures such as 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, it said.

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

The world’s urban population is expected to surge from just over 3.5 billion now to 4.9 billion by 2030, according to the assessment by the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity. At the same time, the area to be covered by cities will expand by 150 percent, it said.

“Most of this growth is expected to happen in small and medium-sized cities, not in megacities,” according to the report, issued to coincide with a U.N. meeting on biodiversity in Hyderabad, India. 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. And the study said that cities were also home to a wide range of animals and plants.

Check out the rest of the article here.


(Photo: The High Line)

Post-sunset up at Burnaby Mountain last night. The silouetted figures are part of a cool, permanent public art installation called 'Playground of the Gods':

Two Japanese artists of Ainu origin, Nubuo (father) and Shusei (son) Toko, are the artists who dedicated these sculptures to the city of Burnaby in 1990. The poles carved in wood represent the story of the gods who descended to earth to give birth to the Ainu people and express 25 years of goodwill between Japanese sister city of Kushiro and the District of Burnaby. (Vancouver Observer)

More snaps here if you’re interested.

From Earth Sky:

In what might be the first study to report continuous measurements of net CO2 exchange of urban vegetation and soils over a full year or more, scientists from UC Santa Barbara and the University of Minnesota conclude that not only is vegetation important in the uptake of the greenhouse gas, but also that different types of vegetation play different roles. Their findings will be published July 4 in the current issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research – Biogeosciences, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

“There has been little research of this type in the urban landscape,” said Joe McFadden, an associate professor in the UC Santa Barbara Department of Geography, and a co-author of the study. While continuous CO2 measurements have been made in natural ecosystems all around the globe, only in the past few years have researchers attempted to use them in developed areas such as cities and suburbs, which often contain large amounts of green space.

The researchers found that typical suburban greenery, such as trees and lawns, played significant roles with respect to CO2 uptake. For nine months out of the year, the suburban landscape was a source of CO2 to the atmosphere; but during the summer, the carbon uptake by vegetation was large enough to balance out fossil fuel emissions of carbon within the neighborhood. Compared to the natural landscape outside the city, the peak daily uptake of CO2 in the suburbs would have been at the low end uptake for a hardwood forest in the region.

The study was funded by NASA and is a “first step” toward quantifying the role of vegetation in extensive developed areas, like suburbs, which are the parts of urban areas growing most rapidly in the country. Potential uses for this type of research include urban planning –– where land use and vegetation choices are major decisions –– and policy decisions based on reducing greenhouse gases.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: ASLA)

Climate Change in Action: Montana’s Famous Glaciers are Melting

From Al Jazeera:

In the US state of Montana, the Glacier National Park - an area sometimes called the “Crown of the Continent” - is famous for its snow-capped mountains.

But it could soon lose its glaciers due to global warming.

Scientists warn if the ice keeps melting at this rate, the park’s 25 remaining glaciers could all melt away by the year 2030.

The US Geological Survey covers the science of Montana’s melting glaciers here. CNN has previously called them, "The poster child for climate change."

Contact with the natural world appears to significantly reduce symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children as young as five. Nearby nature, and even a view of nature from a bedroom window, can reduce stress in children. Children in greener neighborhoods appear to have lower body weight changes. Spending time outdoors may help prevent myopia. Natural environments, such as parks, foster recovery from mental fatigue and may help children as well as adults learn. Green exercise may offer added benefits when compared to equal exertion in indoor gyms. In hospitals, clinics and medical offices, incorporating nature into the design helps people of all ages reduce stress, improve health and cognition.

What if our schools, homes, workplaces and cities were designed with such natural benefits in mind?