In this lecture, Robin Grossinger and Erica Spotswood from the San Francisco Estuary Institute show why urban conservation planning is an essential component to designing the cities of the future, illustrating how to incorporate nature through strategic planning that yields critical benefits for both ecosystems and people.





Issues which the lecture addresses

As cities grow denser, they also need to become greener. High-quality, accessible urban nature is being increasingly recognized as critical to healthy and equitable cities. Urban conservation planning can provide a powerful tool to reshape cities to strengthen local biodiversity, cultural connections to place, public health, and climate resilience, helping achieve The New Urban Agenda commitment of “adopting healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature.” Yet, little science-based guidance has been available to help urban practitioners strategically and systematically incorporate nature into cities.


Short analysis of the above issues

Current research on urban ecology resides in thousands of journal articles and has been largely inaccessible to urban practitioners. Their newly published report, Making Nature’s City, synthesizes global research on urban ecosystems to develop a science-based approach for supporting nature in cities. In this lecture, Robin and Erica introduce the principles of urban conservation planning and show examples of how cities can work strategically at multiple scales to connect, improve, and expand city greenspaces to better support biodiversity while making cities better places to live.


Propositions for addressing the issue

By synthesizing research from cities around the world, Robin and Erica, along with the SFEI, have identified seven key elements that contribute to biodiversity in cities. Together, these elements represent an integrated approach to creating and maintaining urban nature. The elements -- Patches, Corridors, Matrix, Habitat Diversity, Native Plant Vegetation, Special Resources, and Management -- translate ecological processes into practical components that can be implemented through the activities of the diverse public and private entities that together shape the nature of the city. Robin and Erica demonstrate examples of successful implementation of each element from diverse cities and scales and illustrate how these interventions can be scaled up to achieve the level of nature performance that will be needed in cities of the future.



Robin Grossinger is a Senior Scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, where he co-directs SFEI’s Resilient Landscapes program. At SFEI he leads an innovative applied research team in urban ecology and resilience, translating cutting-edge science into actionable planning and design guidance. He is the author of the Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas, published by the University of California Press, and his work has been featured by media from National Public Radio to The New York Times. He advises cities, regional agencies, and corporations such as Google on urban ecological design and climate resilience strategies.


Erica Spotswood is an Applied Ecologist in the Resilient Landscapes program at the San Francisco Estuary Institute where she leads projects related to urban ecology and ecological resilience. Current projects address how regional planning can integrate with local project-scale design, and how urban greening efforts can be coordinated to contribute to broader regional goals for biodiversity and ecological resilience. Her areas of expertise include urban ecology and plant community ecology. Before joining SFEI, Erica conducted postdoctoral research with Katherine Suding, and received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in the department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Prior to graduate school, Erica worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Central Africa, and as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa.  



Making Nature's City:


SFEI Grossinger Webpage:


SFEI Spotswood Webpage:


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The Global Urban Lecture series is an initiative by UNI – UN-Habitat’s partnership with universities worldwide.