Trend Watch February 2020

Could city parklands be used to house endangered fauna?

UNSW students have proposed to create research and veterinary labs for native bats, birds and eels. Restored patches of habitat in Sydney’s Centennial Parklands could become sanctuaries for threatened species, they say.

The proposal come from a two-week Sydney Urban Lab studio in January, overseen by US-based landscape architect Professor Richard Weller and Hassell.

“In the case of Sydney, we decided to get a list of the species endangered both in the city and its region and the broader hotspot, which is really the eastern portion of Australia, and ask the question: could we take a piece of land in Sydney and use that as an incubator for these species, and from there the species could be relocated over time back to the regional ecosystem?” says Weller.

The parklands could be a temporary rehabilitation site, with the species relocated over time back to their regional ecosystems, he proposes.

Looking at global threats to biodiversity from urbanisation, Weller says some of the habitats at risk in eastern and southwestern Australia are now exacerbated by bushfires.

“It makes the work a bit more important because we’ve just lost a billion animals. I mean, it’s a wipe out. So why wouldn’t we use landscapes in cities to protect and harbour species?”

Read more in the UNSW newsroom.

Photo: Grey-headed flying-fox, a vulnerable species currently found in Centennial Parklands, by Andrew Mercer. CC License.

Bad urban design is making us miserable

The risks of developing certain mental health issues could be higher for city dwellers than for those living outside cities, writes Andrea Mechelli for Fast Company.

This includes a 20% higher risk of depression, 77% higher for psychosis and 21% higher risk of generalised anxiety disorder.

Critically, she says, the longer you spend in an urban environment during childhood and adolescence, the higher your risk of developing mental illness in adulthood.

So which factors within the urban environment increase the risk of developing such problems? Some issues identified in epidemiological studies include:

  • Reduced access to green spaces.
  • High levels of noise.
  • High levels of air pollution.
  • Loneliness.
  • Perceived and actual crime.
  • Social inequalities.

These are the result of poor planning, design, and management, Mechelli says, and could be reversed.

Landscape architecture and urban design can largely impact the experience of city living, as the incidence of depression within urban areas is lower when people have access to high-quality housing and green spaces, she says.

Urban living is a complex and contradictory phenomenon, with both advantages and disadvantages. Opportunities for education, socialisation and care in cities can also bring great benefits to mental health, for example.

Image: Dimmyxv via Blendswap. CC License.

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