Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by C. Spahrbier

International Day for Biological Diversity 2012

22 May 2012, Worldwide

The United Nations proclaimed May 22 The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. Events celebrating IBD take place Worldwide and this is its 11th year. The theme for this year is Marine Biodiversity.

Martin Pescador Quintas

Designation of IDB 2012 on the theme of marine ecosystems provides Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and everyone interested in marine life, the opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and increase practical action.

From 2000 to 2010, an unprecedented worldwide collaboration by scientists around the world set out to try and determine how much life is in the sea.  Dubbed the ‘Census of Marine Life’, the effort involved 2,700 scientists from over 80 nations, who participated in 540 expeditions around the world. They studied surface seawater and probed the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean, sailed tropical seas and explored ice-strewn oceans in the Arctic and Antarctic.

By the time the Census ended, it had added 1,200 species to the known roster of life in the sea; scientists are still working their way through another 5,000 specimens to determine whether they are also newly-discovered species. The estimate of the number of known marine species – the species that have been identified and the ones that have been documented but await classification – has increased as a direct result of the Census efforts, and is now around 250,000. (This total does not include some microbial life forms such as marine viruses.) In its final report, the Census team suggested it could be at least a million. Some think the figure could be twice as high.


Lamina Quintas, Vitoria-Gasteiz

Lamina Quintas, Vitoria-Gasteiz


Biodiversity is one of the twelve environmental indicators used to assess applications by cities applying to become the European Green Capital. The 2012 European Green Capital Vitoria-Gasteiz has made real progress in recovering biodiversity, restoring many of the city’s damaged ecological and landscape areas through the Green Belt project, the creation of the Bosques de Europa Botanical Gardens and the opening of the Ecological gardens for citizens. Since 1996, more than 12,000 schoolchildren and hundreds of adults have joined the ‘Adopt a tree and grow with it’ campaign, planting over 40 000 trees and bushes. The Vitoria-Gasteiz municipality has 11,331 hectares of forest, most of it publicly owned. Native species, especially beech and oak, make up 91% of the trees.

The city has a high proportion of green public areas, so the entire population lives within 300m of an open green space. Public gardens cover 1091 hectares, making up 32.67% of the urban area. A Green Belt of 5 large suburban parks exists, effectively bringing nature into the urban heart. Many of the hundreds of green spaces form a biodiversity resources sustaining some 50,000 trees of 381 different species, and 12,160 shrubs.

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