Engaging urban nature: improving our understanding of public perceptions of the role of biodiversity in cities
In recognition of the value of biodiversity for cities and citizens, a number of international programs have been designed to help municipal governments sustain, protect, and augment the biodiversity and ecosystem services within their jurisdictions. A key component of these programs is public engagement, where citizens assume a more active role in maintaining urban biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. Yet, there are few studies which have as their focus public knowledge of the importance of nature, biodiversity, and ecosystem services in cities. To these ends, this study was conducted to develop a better understanding of how the public understands and interacts with urban biodiversity, particularly in comparison to subject matter experts. Using topics generated from expert interviews and the literature, an interview guide was developed for the general public, structured around the general themes of a definition of urban biodiversity, as well as the perceived benefits, costs, and threats related to urban biodiversity. While there were similarities in the responses of citizens and experts, some differences did emerge in terms of accounting for specific urban ecosystems, acceptable interventions to support and enhance biodiversity, and the character and extent of the cultural services derived from urban nature. Insights from this work can be used to inform education and information efforts for the public, as well as raise awareness among city planners and nature professionals of the array of urban ecosystem services recognized and made use of by the public.