Where does nature stop and a town or city begin? A trick question as it’s a false dichotomy, because no matter how we engineer our environment nature will live there too.
But the world is changing, “The growth of cities will be the single largest influence on development in the 21st century.” (UNPF 1996). More than half of the world’s population can be found in urban environments, and these areas are becoming increasingly hostile by expanding outwards, upwards and in density.
Modern town planning has shaped cites according to function, something nature takes no notice of. However, if an area has been designated as green space then there is no reason why nature should not fully exploit this freedom. From a human perspective, green space in an urban environment provides social, economic and environmental benefits. But how well do these allotted green spaces tick these human imposed boxes, and how does the mosaic network of green spaces across a city interact, communicate and help one another fulfill its potential. Clever use of urban planning can create greenways and corridors to encourage routes of movement, which can promote biodiversity across green spaces.
In an effort to gauge the ability of an urban area to foster nature, we are using small aquatic habitats (ponds), as they have a specific set of niches suiting a particular set of organisms that can colonise the habitat in a variety of ways. Colonisation can occur actively by organisms crawling or flying, or indirectly by transportation on other more mobile animals like birds or amphibians. Leaving a newly made pond – a blank canvas – in an urban area can give a valuable insight into the level of ‘nature as a resource’ that is available.