Are cities Europe’s new biodiversity hotspots?

Are cities Europe's new biodiversity hotspots?

Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s public urban park in the southwest of the city, is anything but a remote place. Even on a weekday, it’s full of people taking a stroll, playing soccer or chatting with friends on the neatly mowed grass.

There are also countless people bicycling on the wide, paved roads — after all, this is the Netherlands. Vondelpark definitely might not seem like the ideal place to look for new species of insects, but biologist Iva Njunjic begs to differ.

“Unknown biodiversity is lurking everywhere, even in this place dominated by humans.” Njunjic works for Taxon Expeditions, a Netherlands-based organization that offers ecotourism trips, usually to places like Borneo, Panama and Montenegro.

Last year, they embarked on a week long citizen-science project to comb a small island nature reserve in Vondelpark called the “Koeienweide” — “cow meadow” — for new species. A single path leads to the reserve, which is padlocked and clearly off-limits to the general public. Managed by an Amsterdam citizens’ initiative, the Koeienweide — an island surrounded by canals — clearly hasn’t seen a lawnmower for quite a while.

“In a country like the Netherlands, cities are actually biologically rich in comparison to the countryside,” he told DW. “This is because there is intensive agriculture everywhere.” The organizers hope their findings will shed light on the importance of insects. “Even though they’re so tiny they perform many important functions like aerating the soil, decomposing organic matter and pollinating the plants,” Iva Njunjic says. “Everyone wants to save pandas and lions, but insects are actually more important.”

This is an excerpt. You can read the full article in Deutsche Welle: are cities Europe’s new biodiversity hotspots?

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