Title image: a walk in the park by Madeleine Donohue.
Back in 2018 the Beijing government partnered with Peking University to develop ideas for how to Beijing better for wildlife. I was honoured to be invited to be an advisor and delivered a lecture to government officials with some specific ideas to enhance biodiversity in Beijing, as detailed in this post from December 2018.
Just last week I participated in a meeting to discuss one of the ideas – the potential for Miyun Reservoir to be managed for wildlife as well as water quality. Three days later, I was informed by the government that another suggestion – to leave 10% of parks “wild” – was to be piloted in a new park in Tongzhou District. Wonderful news!
This is a summary of the concept idea submitted in 2019:
Beijing’s parks are impressive and a huge positive feature of the city landscape, attracting millions of visitors each year. They are also important refuges for wildlife. However, almost all could be significantly better for wildlife if they were managed differently. Currently, nearly all undergrowth is cleared away. Fallen leaves are swept up. Trees are sprayed with insecticide. Very few areas are allowed to be wild, meaning that wildlife is restricted.
One suggestion is to leave 10% of each park to be ‘wild’, meaning that the grass and other plants would be allowed to grow without being cut, leaves allowed to drop and decompose, providing shelter for insects and a basis for other wildlife to thrive. This 10% would not affect the overall look of the parks and, if signs and other information were erected, the initiative would serve as a positive addition by educating the public about nature. Each park could partner with a local school or schools – citizen scientists – who could be responsible for monitoring the wildlife in the parks and comparing the ‘wild’ areas with those managed in the traditional way. Subject to the results, consideration could be given to expanding the percentage allowed to be “wild”.
– More and better habitat for wildlife in urban Beijing
– Students at local schools become citizen scientists
– Public engagement on the role of parks in providing homes for wildlife in cities
– Fewer resources needed for park management
It’s an idea that gained traction very quickly and I am delighted that the Beijing government has now decided to pilot it. I can’t wait to see how it works out. After the mid-autumn holiday we’ll be discussing the details with the park management authorities to help identify a suitable area and to develop a plan of engagement with a local school.
Combined with the ongoing discussions around Miyun Reservoir, these are positive developments and could help to form the basis for a “Blueprint on Biodiversity” in Beijing.
Next year will see governments meet in Kunming, China to agree on a “new deal for nature” aimed at slowing and halting the staggering global biodiversity loss we are witnessing. However it is clear that national governments, although arguably the most critical part of the jigsaw, cannot solve the biodiversity crisis alone. It’s vital that cities, communities, business and NGOs all step up. And it’s clear that cities that provide space for wildlife will be better places for people, too.
There’s a long way to go in Beijing but these developments offer genuine hope.