CAPE TOWN – Cape Town is the most biodiverse urban area in the world‚ says the leader of the UN’s City and Biodiversity Outlook Project‚ Thomas Elmqvist.
The honour was bestowed by the leader of the UN’s City and Biodiversity Outlook Project‚ Thomas Elmqvist‚ a Swedish expert in natural resource management and urban landscapes.
His assessment comes in an article published on Monday as part of The Guardian’s Cities project‚ writer Feike De Jong reporting: “The world’s most biodiverse urban area‚ in raw numbers and with an understanding for its value‚ could be Cape Town‚ according to Elmqvist.”
De Jong said the Western Cape was home to half of all South African’s mammal species. “Baboons‚ ostriches and zebras live in Table Mountain National Park‚ while whales‚ seals and otters swim off its shores.
“The stability of Cape Town’s climate on the southern tip of Africa has enabled it to become home to approximately 3‚000 species of plants‚ 361 species of birds and 83 species of mammals.”
But the city’s biodiversity was under threat as its human population grew. “Some 318 types of plants‚ 22 types of birds and 24 types of animals are in danger of extinction. But Cape Town is taking a variety of measures to protect and preserve this incredible natural asset.”
De Jong’s report‚ as part of a series funded by the Rockefeller Foundation‚ said calculating cities’ biodiversity is complicated. “Not all cities have the same area within their administrative limits‚ or the data necessary.”
Cape Town’s rivals for the title included two of the largest megacities‚ Sao Paulo and Mexico City. “Sao Paulo perches between Brazil’s great Atlantic rainforest and the tropical savannah of the Cerrado – two highly rich biomes.
“Mexico City‚ meanwhile‚ was founded on lakebeds where the deserts of the northern highlands encountered the wooded volcanoes of Mexico’s neo-volcanic axis. Even now‚ it still contains 2% of the world’s species within its city limits.”
Singapore was another contender. “By law‚ in certain areas‚ developers are responsible for replacing the greenery they occupy for construction. The result is a city of rooftop gardens‚ interconnected parks and a biodiversity-spotting app allowing citizens to record sightings of plants and animals.”
Several other biodiverse cities – Medellin in Colombia‚ Iquitos in Peru‚ Brunei‚ Kunming in China‚ and Mumbai – were contenders for a position in the top five.
The index proposed by the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook Project says biodiversity itself is not the only indicator to consider. Some cities were notable for their leadership in recognising and exploiting biodiversity as a policy-making tool and an integral part of urban wellbeing.
De Jong said one species endemic to South Africa was not likely to be at risk any time soon‚ since it adorned balconies throughout the world. “Next time you see a geranium in bloom‚ think of the world’s most biodiverse city‚ fighting against the tide‚” he said.
Source: TMG Digital.
PHOTO: HOW THEY SOAR: Heli flips offer spectacular views over the City of Cape Town and the sea. Pictures: Cape Town Tourism shot by Craig Howes