Creating better cities: how biodiversity and ecosystem functioning enhance urban residents’ wellbeing
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- Taylor, L. & Hochuli, D.F. Urban Ecosyst (2015) 18: 747. doi:10.1007/s11252-014-0427-3
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Cities concentrate risks and the adverse effects of dense populations, such as outdoor air pollution, chronic disease and the impact of extreme weather events. Governments and planning bodies struggle to heed and apply the abundance of unintegrated research that links aspects of the urban environment with urban residents’ wellbeing. In order to promote human wellbeing in cities, a number of key features of the urban environment should be promoted. The medical science, urban ecology and urban design research already recognises the importance of some aspects, including providing walkable spaces, community space and greenspace. We argue that in practice, the provision of these three features is insufficient for human wellbeing. Emerging research demonstrates the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem functions to wellbeing. This paper outlines the concept of wellbeing and provides a summary of the three established features of urban environments that enhance residents’ lives: the provision of walkable, community and greenspace. We then outline the importance of two vital but often overlooked links in the discussion of how urban planning contributes to wellbeing: biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Until governments and policies recognise the importance of these two elements, urban design and management for wellbeing is at best simplistic. It is important for biodiversity and ecosystem function to be considered during the design decision process. Urban designers and ecologists should recognise that their work has the potential to contribute to human wellbeing by integrating biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in their research.