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bioSUSTAINABILITY workshop: Urban Biosustainability
Montréal, 16th July 2004.

Near the start of the 21st century over half the world’s population inhabited urban areas. Various global population projections agree that most of the world’s growth will occur in urban areas in the south. Cities are shaped and in turn shape their hinterlands and the cities they are connected to by culture, trade and migration. Consequently urban areas have become a force that is transforming the earth.

Today, due to humanities unprecedented domination over the Earth’s biogeochemical cycles, the transformation of land surface, appropriation of the products of photosynthesis, and the movement of biota, transformations occur that, as global level analysis makes clear, are done to support cities, but potentially undercut their ability to sustain themselves. Therefore understanding the ecology of cities is vital both for understanding global change and the vulnerability of people to global change.

A one-day workshop was held at UQAM, Montréal, where a group of international participants from ecological, economic and social science disciplines met to devise a science framework for Urban Biosustainability within the wider DIVERSITAS programme.

Four main research areas emerged from the meeting:
(i) Urban and urban-hinterland biodiversity patterns
What are the general patterns/syndromes/archetypes of urban ecological systems at different scales? What social-ecological drivers (invasive species, migration) determine these patterns, and what shocks (hurricanes, economic, political) can cause shifts between these patterns?
(ii) Ecosystem services
What do people want from nature in urban settings? What are the health/productivity/social/economic consequences of having urban habitats that satisfy these desires? (mental health, illness in general, divorce, employment) How much variation exists in what people want? How do we reconcile differences in what people want?
(iii) Policy instruments
What are the policy instruments that can be used, at different scales, to enhance ecosystem services within urban areas, and to enhance urban contributions to exurban conservation and ecosystem services?
(iv) Fundamentals of ecology
In what ways are the patterns of biodiversity (e.g. richness, turnover, abundance, function) in urban and natural ecosystems similar and different, and how does this influence the design and maintenance of urban ecosystems?

• A research agenda with four main focus areas;
• The participants in the workshop to maintain links and initiate research in the areas identified.

Last updated: 5 November 2004

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