Session 9: Urban Landscape Biodiversity

Urban landscape is significant to the majority of population who live in cities in the world. There has been a rising recognition that biodiversity is a foundation of a healthy ecosystem, but how to associate urban landscape transformation and planning and design to biodiversity conservation has been a challenge to realize sustainable development at the global scale. This webinar aims to provide an in-depth discussion on how to use nature-based solutions, climate change adaptation, biodiversity assessment, human-nature relationship management and transdisciplinary co-creation to promote sustainable urban landscape development and biodiversity conservation. It will provide a multiple-aspect explanation on the role of landscape studies in promoting biodiversity through the lens of history, theories and frontier applications.


Date & Time
January 12 at 8:00-9:30 pm (PST)
January 13 at 12:00-13:30 pm (UTC+8)


Shanghai Jiao Tong University



  • Prof. Shengquan CHE (SCL SJTU Representative)
  • Dr. Fei MO (SCL-ULB Working Group Leader)

Opening Remarks

  • Christina Schönleber, APRU Senior Director, Policy and Research Programs
  • Dr. Yekang KO, APRU SCL Program Director



  • Dr. Alessandro Ossola
  • Prof. Harini Nagendra
  • Prof. Ruishan CHEN


See the recording here!

Dr. Alessandro Ossola

Dr. Alessandro Ossola, Assistant Professor at UC Davis and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne and Macquarie University


Dr Ossola is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Davis, USA. He is also Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne and at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Alessandro is a former US National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine NRC Associate within the National Risk Management Research Laboratory of US-EPA in Cincinnati, Ohio. His research encompasses several topics including ecology, climate change, forestry, water management, food production, planning and design. Over the years, he enjoyed the opportunity to lecture for undergraduate and postgraduate subjects related to urban green infrastructures, urban biodiversity conservation, climate change, urban horticulture, eco-hydrology, landscape architecture, urban planning and design. Alessandro is particularly interested in the applied side of his research which spans environmental management, ecological design, science communication and outreach.


Presentation Title
Global Challenges and Opportunities for Urban Biodiversity


The Anthropocene marked the rise of the modern biodiversity crisis. Research shows that urban areas have the potential, resources and skills to alter this course and foster meaningful actions to sustain biodiversity, nature, people and the environment. This talk will explore recent trends in urban biodiversity research with particular focus on nature-based solutions, biological conservation and climate change adaptation to highlight challenges and opportunities for urban planning, design and management.


Reading List
• Ossola, A., Hoeppner, J.M., Burley, H., Gallagher, R.V., Beaumont, L.J., Leishman, M.R., 2020. The Global Urban Tree Inventory: A database of the diverse tree flora that inhabits the world’s cities. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 29:1907-1914.
• Tabassum, S., Ossola, A., Manea, A., Cinantya, A., Fernandez-Winzer, L., Leishman, M.R., 2020. Using ecological knowledge for landscaping with plants in cities. Ecological Engineering, 158, 106049.
• Locke, D., Ossola, A., Minor, E., Lin, B., 2021. Spatial contagion structures urban vegetation from parcel to landscape. People and Nature,
• Ossola, A., Lin, B., 2021. Making Nature-Based Solutions “climate-ready” for the 50°C world. Environmental Science and Policy, 123: 151-159.
• Lin, B., Ossola, A., et al., 2021. Integrating solutions to adapt cities for climate change. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(7): e479–e486.
• Goddard, M., Davies, Z.G., et al., 2021. A global horizon scan of the future impacts of robotics and autonomous systems on urban ecosystems. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 5:219- 230.

Prof. Harini Nagendra

Prof. Harini Nagendra, Lead Director and Professor at Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability, Azim Premji University

Harini Nagendra is an ecologist and Professor of Sustainability. Over the past 25 years, she has been at the leading edge of research examining conservation in forests and cities of South Asia from the perspective of both landscape ecology and social justice. For her interdisciplinary research and practice, she has received a number of awards including the 2009 Cozzarelli Prize from the US National Academy of Sciences, the 2013 Elinor Ostrom Senior Scholar award, and the 2017 Clarivate Web of Science award. Her publications include the books “Nature in the City: Bengaluru in the Past, Present and Future” (Oxford University Press, 2016) and “Cities and Canopies: Trees in Indian Cities” (Penguin, 2019, with Seema Mundoli) as well as recent papers in Nature, Nature Sustainability, and Science. Harini Nagendra writes a monthly column ‘The Green Goblin’ in the Deccan Herald newspaper and is a well-known public speaker and writer on issues of urban sustainability in India. She is also the author of a historical mystery fiction series set in 1920s colonial Bangalore. Professor Nagendra has been a Lead Author on the IPCC AR5 reports, and a past Science Committee member of DIVERSITAS and the Global Land Programme. She engages with international science and policy through her involvement as a Steering Committee member of the Future Earth Programme for Ecosystem Change and Society, and the Future Earth Urban Knowledge Advisory Network.


Presentation Title
Thinking Ecologically About India’s Cities: Rapid Urban Landscape Changes in India

The era of the Anthropocene is also the era of the urban. This is especially apparent across Asia, where cities are on a breakneck path to growth. Cities are engines of prosperity and promise, but also concentrations of pollution, stress, and disease. Episodes of flood, drought, heat waves, and smog tell us why we must begin to think ecologically about our urban future. Drawing on analysis of India’s ten largest cities from 2001 to 2016 using Google Earth Engine, I show that Indian cities are growing through sprawl, and simultaneously densifying through in-filling. Larger cities, possibly due to their colonial history of green interior areas, have lower urban density at the core, but experience infilling between 2001 and 2016. Urban growth cover has impacted natural vegetation cover, with agriculture experiencing maximal conversion to urban cover. Across all cities, urban patches have expanded in total area coverage and coalesced into larger units. As a result, we observe fragmentation of tree cover, agriculture/fallow and water bodies, which can have significant negative implications for biodiversity. But analysis of remote sensing, however powerful, will not alone provide insights into the ways in which people shape and relate to urban ecology. The talk will then further discuss how we need to use diverse methods including ecological field studies to assess biodiversity, anthropological interviews to understand ecological justice, archival analysis to understand the role of ecological history, and transdisciplinary co-creation of restoration to provide a holistic understanding of urban change. In the era of the Anthropocene, such interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches will be essential to re-think and re-design cities as places of ecology, ensuring human wellbeing as well as resilience to climate change.

Reading List
• Agarwal Shivani & Nagendra Harini (2020): Classification of Indian cities using Google Earth Engine, Journal of Land Use Science, DOI: 10.1080/1747423X.2020.1720842
• Nagendra, H., Bai, X., Brondizio, E.S. et al. The urban south and the predicament of global sustainability. Nat Sustain 1, 341–349 (2018).

Prof Ruishan CHEN

Prof Ruishan CHEN, Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Design, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Ruishan Chen is a geographer and a professor of human-environmental interaction. He is the director of the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN) East Asian Hub and has been involved in the Global land degradation and restoration assessment of the International Platform on Bioversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and also reviewers of several other IPBES assessment reports. Over the past 14 years, he has been working on land-use change, urban disaster risk reduction, climate change, and coastal land reclamation. Recently he is combining adaptation and mitigation measures through landscape architecture and nature-based solutions to achieve carbon neutral and resilient Cities. He is working as a shepherd for UCCRN’s climate change, covid-19, and cities, and a lead author for nature-based solutions in cities.

Presentation Title
Urban biodiversity in the Anthropocene: Looking back to move forward

Biodiversity provides many ecosystem services for humans’ survival, ranging from food, fiber to clean air. Urban biodiversity has changed dramatically in the Anthropocene, while the cities grow and human intervention increase. From the plants to the animals in the cities, their evolution is much impacted by humans’ preference, but also human-made climate change. Capturing the status and trends of biodiversity in a city represents an important part of understanding whether a metropolitan area is developing along a sustainable trajectory or not. This presentation will look at how biodiversity has transformed in cities in the anthopocene, what are the impacts for ecosystem services, and how to manage the human-biodiversity relationship in the post-pandemic era.

Reading List
• Kenta Uchida et al., Urban Biodiversity and the Importance of Scale, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 2021, 36(2):123-131.
• Max R. Lambert & Colin M. Donihue. Urban biodiversity management using evolutionary tools, Nature Ecology & Evolution,4: 903–910 (2020).
• Zhen Wu, Ruishan Chen, et al., Changing urban green spaces in Shanghai: trends, drivers and policy implications, land use policy, 2019, 87, 104080.