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      Nature's heartbeat in urban spaces

      Writer: Matteo Convertino  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2023-11-02

      Parks play a vital role in our lives, providing spaces for us to enjoy with our loved ones or find solace in solitude. However, the significance of parks goes beyond personal experiences. Biodiversity, which refers to the variety of species and habitats in ecosystems, plays a crucial role in defining the functions of parks. From carbon sequestration and hydrological balance to providing habitats for resident and migratory species, biodiversity offers numerous benefits such as recreational opportunities and mitigation of climate and anthropogenic impacts like floods, droughts, and air pollution.


      However, assessing biodiversity goes beyond a simple species count. It involves considering species distribution, ecological conditions, historical changes, habitat connectivity, and environmental pressures such as noise and light exposure. Efforts are underway to precisely measure and monitor ecosystem health to inform decisions that improve ecosystem’s well-being.


      When considering the city of Shenzhen, reputed as a green city, we must recognize that only a portion of it remains natural and native. Approximately 55-60% of the green we see today is a reflection of Shenzhen prior to its urban development. The eco-health of the city varies among different parks, depending on their ecological imprint and natural conditions. Some parks, like Tanglang Mountain, Wutong Mountain, and the Dapeng Peninsula Geopark, represent the healthiest remnants of Shenzhen’s natural ecosystems, despite varying degrees of anthropogenic pressure.


      View of Shenzhen from Tanglang Mountain. Tanglang Mountain is a primary forest and one of the few pristine ecosystems in the city. Courtesy of Matteo Convertino


      Several parks still showcase traces of the city’s past, such as Lianhua Hill Park, which was built on existing hills once connected to Tanglang Mountain. Other areas, like the restored Dasha River, retain some remnants of their natural state, but major changes have taken place, including the addition of elements for human recreation.


      There are also newly-created parks on land reclaimed from the sea, such as Shenzhen Talent Park and the Shenzhen Bay ecological corridor. However, the overall picture of the city’s parks is one of disconnected green areas that need to be reintegrated into a unified whole, so that they can form a larger green puzzle.


      To that end, our mission is to enhance ecohydrological connectivity through actions like reforestation and improving water flows. This includes establishing connections between urban parks and natural parks which facilitate species movement, enhance hydrologic responses, regulate temperatures, increase carbon sequestration, and improve nutrient regulation across all ecosystems. Such effort as creating interconnected wetlands, floodplains, and vegetative buffer strips can be orchestrated with urban solutions including urban gardens and the greening of buildings.


      It is crucial to remember that parks transcend administrative and city boundaries, working as part of a collective ecosystem that recognizes nature’s own boundaries. Biodiversity management should adopt a transboundary approach based on natural boundaries defined by watersheds, which are the primary blueprint of nature. It is fundamental to protect existing natural areas and to always keep in mind that beautiful nature is of functional value. We are doing ourselves a favor when we protect nature.


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