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Insights Why Canada needs to invest more in urban ecosystems

An urban ecosystem might sound like a juxtaposition because for many years we’ve seen cities grow taller and denser as humans compete for space. Metropolitan areas were favoured over more rural landscapes because they offered better living conditions and jobs, and now the United Nations predicts 68% of the global population will choose to live in these spaces by 2050. However, we can bring nature back to cities, towns and suburbs, and if there’s ever been a time to act, it’s now.

Canada is facing the very real threat of rising temperatures, meaning that the most densely populated areas are teetering on the edge of urban vulnerability. What does this mean for Canada, and why might investing in urban ecosystems be the answer?

image of the skyline of a Canadian city at sunset

Urban vulnerability vs. urban resilience

When too much green space is replaced with infrastructure, the region tips into what is known as urban vulnerability. As the name would suggest, it puts all those species that live in this urban environment at risk of climate and wellbeing hazards.

Yet when you begin to introduce nature back into the environment, over time, the balance will swing back to urban resilience. Therefore, extreme weather events - such as tornados, heatwaves or snowstorms - can be faced head-on. With these events becoming more frequent and Canada clocking a record-high temperature of 49.6C, urban communities need to rethink their ecosystems. Not only can they take action to cool their environment, but urban resilience will ensure the animals and plants that reside there will have the strength to positively adapt when exposed to adversities.

What does an urban ecosystem look like?

If you’ve ever seen large buildings in the city covered in foliage, this isn’t just for the aesthetic value. This greenery is a very small part of what is considered an urban ecosystem, and here are a few other things you might expect to find:

  • Plants that absorb pollutants and CO2 and provide the oxygen we need for good lung health
  • Green areas that promote mental and physical wellbeing
  • Green roofs and walls to protect against UV radiation and help to cool a city to its natural temperature
  • Shrubbery that reduced noise pollution
  • Tree-lined streets to promote water uptake and limit the risk of flooding
  • Solar panels to capture the sun’s energy which is converted into electricity to power homes, hospitals and offices

The list of ways to build a better urban ecosystem is endless. As building mechanical engineers, environmental planners, and ecologists collaborate to develop ground-breaking solutions to climate change, the urban spaces as we know them will become greener than ever before.

How is AtkinsRéalis delivering ground-breaking urban ecosystem solutions?

At AtkinsRéalis , our people thrive on finding solutions to some of the biggest challenges in urban living. We’re helping to create bright futures for communities we develop with locally-focused solutions that are right for the ecosystem and everyone in it.

Exploring practical solutions, restoring biodiversity and introducing new green spaces will all help to counter the effects of extreme weather effects, but it’s about more than just that. Our teams are building a career for a sustainable future.

Shape a better world with AtkinsRéalis

If you want to be a part of a team where you can make a real difference in bridging the gap between urban residents and the surrounding ecosystems, there could be a place for you at AtkinsRéalis . We’re a part of a larger group – which includes our businesses, Atkins and Faithful+Gould – and are united by our passion for Engineering Net Zero. We want to leave the planet in a better position than we inherited it for the next generation of pioneers.

What is the next step for you? Browse our environment and geoscience jobs, environmental management jobs, or find out more about joining our Canada team.