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What Is Urban Conservation?

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee

Urban conservation is the ecological practice of conserving green areas and natural resources in an urban setting. Yards, parks, and rivers in urban areas can all benefit from urban conservation practices, which typically clean up pollution and encourage population by native plant and animal species. Urban conservation can also include planting more trees, bushes, and flowers in urban areas, which can help to lower temperatures and freshen urban air. Conserving water and energy in urban settings can also be important for the conservation of the world's resources, since most people now live in urban areas. The introduction of more reliable public transport can also help with green urban planning, since it typically reduces carbon emissions in urban areas.

The cleanup of polluted urban waters, and the protection of these waters, can be a big part of urban conservation. Rivers, lakes, coastal areas and other waterways in urban areas are vulnerable to pollution. Cleaning these waters, and protecting them from further pollution, can help restore ecosystems to a state of health. In addition, the people who live in urban areas typically take more enjoyment from clean, healthy waterways where fishing, boating, and other recreational activities can take place. Protecting urban waterways can also increase urban resources, giving the area an additional supply of fresh water.

A wooden barrel can be used to collect rain to water plants.
A wooden barrel can be used to collect rain to water plants.

Many urban planning officials believe that incorporating green spaces into an urban area can make that area more pleasant and perhaps healthier to live. Trees and other plants in city parks and along boulevards help lower air temperatures. Urban areas are typically construction of concrete, asphalt and other materials that absorb sunlight, raising the air temperature in cities. Trees and bushes offer shade to help cool cities. They can also help filter pollution from the city air, while regulations on waste disposal and use of outdoor chemicals can help further curtail pollution.

Urban conservation involves preserving green areas and natural resources in urban settings.
Urban conservation involves preserving green areas and natural resources in urban settings.

In smaller cities and towns, conservation can often mean providing places where native animals may live. Many animals continue to live alongside humans in smaller cities and towns. Cultivating native vegetation, protecting against soil erosion, and even sometimes offering shelter to native species can be a part of urban conservation. Even the most rural communities may encourage farmers to cultivate the native plants that indigenous species use for food and shelter. Gardeners and subsistence farmers may be encouraged to collect rainwater in vats or barrels to water crops and plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is urban conservation?

Urban conservation refers to the practice of preserving, protecting, and enhancing natural habitats and resources within urban environments. It aims to balance city development with the need to maintain biodiversity, reduce pollution, and improve the quality of life for city dwellers by integrating green spaces, such as parks and wildlife corridors, into urban planning.

Why is urban conservation important?

Urban conservation is crucial for maintaining biodiversity, reducing the urban heat island effect, and improving air and water quality in cities. It provides essential ecosystem services, such as pollination and stormwater management, and contributes to the physical and mental well-being of urban residents. According to the World Health Organization, urban green spaces are key to promoting public health.

How does urban conservation benefit wildlife?

Urban conservation creates habitats for wildlife, offering food, shelter, and breeding grounds within city landscapes. It also establishes green corridors that enable species to move and disperse, reducing the risk of genetic isolation. The National Wildlife Federation highlights that urban conservation can support a surprising diversity of species, from birds to small mammals and insects.

What are some examples of urban conservation initiatives?

Examples of urban conservation initiatives include the creation of green roofs, urban tree planting programs, restoration of urban waterways, and the development of community gardens. Cities like Singapore have implemented extensive green infrastructure, earning it the nickname "City in a Garden," showcasing how urban conservation can be woven into the fabric of city life.

How can individuals contribute to urban conservation?

Individuals can contribute to urban conservation by planting native species in their gardens, participating in local clean-up events, using sustainable transportation methods, and supporting policies that promote green space development. Engaging in citizen science projects, such as bird counts or biodiversity surveys, also helps gather valuable data for conservation efforts.

What challenges does urban conservation face?

Urban conservation faces challenges such as limited space, funding constraints, and competing interests in land use. Pollution, invasive species, and climate change also pose significant threats. Overcoming these challenges requires collaborative efforts between governments, NGOs, and communities, as well as innovative solutions to integrate nature into rapidly expanding urban areas.

Discussion Comments


@KoiwiGal - I'm of two minds about that. I don't think it's the kind of thing that you can really ever put in black and white terms. Because I think that conservation should really matter, but in some cases the best way forward is by using new technology. I'd much rather that we have the most sustainable architecture in place to conserve energy and water, rather than keeping old designs around because they look nice.

The ideal solution is a compromise between the two, but if it comes to a conflict between conserving the traditional and attempting to make the future better, I would rather ensure the future of a city.


@pastanaga - It always makes me sad when something that has been a part of a city for a long time is taken away. I hope Wellington gets to keep its green areas, because there are a lot of places where greed, or even desperation has simply won out over the desire to keep what is best for the people.

Savannah is another really lovely example where community planning has managed to preserve beautiful historical areas. It can be a little bit controversial, because they have basically made it illegal to build anything that doesn't match the aesthetic of the city and that can be very costly. But they have managed to keep all the lovely old trees and squares that give the city its character. I think this kind of urban conservation is worth it in the end.


Wellington in New Zealand is a good example of how beautiful a city can be when there are laws in place to conserve the green areas. There are big stretches of forested land that cannot be built on and they serve to keep the air clean and the people happy as they can all enjoy these places.

Originally, they were planned into the city as a way of somewhat artificially boosting the real estate prices, by making land more rare and therefore expensive. But at the moment they are basically considered priceless as they give the city a lot of its character.

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    • A wooden barrel can be used to collect rain to water plants.
      By: Brad Pict
      A wooden barrel can be used to collect rain to water plants.
    • Urban conservation involves preserving green areas and natural resources in urban settings.
      By: Ints Vikmanis
      Urban conservation involves preserving green areas and natural resources in urban settings.