Urban biodiversity offers important benefits to residents and may be crucial to reaching global biodiversity conservation targets, but little research has been conducted on how cities actually plan for biodiversity.

This study used a mixed methods content analysis of biodiversity plans by 39 cities around the world to determine whether they measured their actions, how they did so (via quantitative indicators and qualitative outputs), and what topics these actions and measures covered.

The analytical framework is based upon the Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity (also known as the City Biodiversity Index), a widely applied 23-indicator index that helps cities track their progress in biodiversity planning. The Singapore Index groups its indicators into the following three core components: native biodiversity, ecosystem services, and governance and management.

Findings include:

  • The study identified 2,231 actions, 346 indicators, and 444 outputs. 
  • All of the plans included actions, while 82% included measures (67% included indicators and 72% included outputs).
  • Only 29% of actions were associated with a measure.
  • Most (71%) of the plan’s action statements were not linked with accountability measures, although almost all (98%) of outputs and most (71%) of indicators were linked with actions.

"Cities seemed to be more ambitious when it came to action statements, but less able or willing to link some of those statement to accountability measures."

The Authors conclude that the emerging implications of the COVID-19 global public health crisis for the future of urban planning and public space design also emphasize the importance of green spaces and biodiversity to public health and raise questions of how to best incorporate biodiversity into the urban landscape.

"The development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework thus presents an unprecedented opportunity for meaningful integration of subnational and local contributions to urban biodiversity. Our work here offers a first step towards understanding how cities plan for biodiversity in practice."

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