What Is Urban Conservation?

Marjorie McAtee

Urban conservation is the ecological practice of conserving green areas and natural resources in an urban setting. Yards, parks, and rivers in urban areas can all benefit from urban conservation practices, which typically clean up pollution and encourage population by native plant and animal species. Urban conservation can also include planting more trees, bushes, and flowers in urban areas, which can help to lower temperatures and freshen urban air. Conserving water and energy in urban settings can also be important for the conservation of the world's resources, since most people now live in urban areas. The introduction of more reliable public transport can also help with green urban planning, since it typically reduces carbon emissions in urban areas.

Urban conservation involves preserving green areas and natural resources in urban settings.
Urban conservation involves preserving green areas and natural resources in urban settings.

The cleanup of polluted urban waters, and the protection of these waters, can be a big part of urban conservation. Rivers, lakes, coastal areas and other waterways in urban areas are vulnerable to pollution. Cleaning these waters, and protecting them from further pollution, can help restore ecosystems to a state of health. In addition, the people who live in urban areas typically take more enjoyment from clean, healthy waterways where fishing, boating, and other recreational activities can take place. Protecting urban waterways can also increase urban resources, giving the area an additional supply of fresh water.

A wooden barrel can be used to collect rain to water plants.
A wooden barrel can be used to collect rain to water plants.

Many urban planning officials believe that incorporating green spaces into an urban area can make that area more pleasant and perhaps healthier to live. Trees and other plants in city parks and along boulevards help lower air temperatures. Urban areas are typically construction of concrete, asphalt and other materials that absorb sunlight, raising the air temperature in cities. Trees and bushes offer shade to help cool cities. They can also help filter pollution from the city air, while regulations on waste disposal and use of outdoor chemicals can help further curtail pollution.

In smaller cities and towns, conservation can often mean providing places where native animals may live. Many animals continue to live alongside humans in smaller cities and towns. Cultivating native vegetation, protecting against soil erosion, and even sometimes offering shelter to native species can be a part of urban conservation. Even the most rural communities may encourage farmers to cultivate the native plants that indigenous species use for food and shelter. Gardeners and subsistence farmers may be encouraged to collect rainwater in vats or barrels to water crops and plants.

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Discussion Comments


@KoiwiGal - I'm of two minds about that. I don't think it's the kind of thing that you can really ever put in black and white terms. Because I think that conservation should really matter, but in some cases the best way forward is by using new technology. I'd much rather that we have the most sustainable architecture in place to conserve energy and water, rather than keeping old designs around because they look nice.

The ideal solution is a compromise between the two, but if it comes to a conflict between conserving the traditional and attempting to make the future better, I would rather ensure the future of a city.


@pastanaga - It always makes me sad when something that has been a part of a city for a long time is taken away. I hope Wellington gets to keep its green areas, because there are a lot of places where greed, or even desperation has simply won out over the desire to keep what is best for the people.

Savannah is another really lovely example where community planning has managed to preserve beautiful historical areas. It can be a little bit controversial, because they have basically made it illegal to build anything that doesn't match the aesthetic of the city and that can be very costly. But they have managed to keep all the lovely old trees and squares that give the city its character. I think this kind of urban conservation is worth it in the end.


Wellington in New Zealand is a good example of how beautiful a city can be when there are laws in place to conserve the green areas. There are big stretches of forested land that cannot be built on and they serve to keep the air clean and the people happy as they can all enjoy these places.

Originally, they were planned into the city as a way of somewhat artificially boosting the real estate prices, by making land more rare and therefore expensive. But at the moment they are basically considered priceless as they give the city a lot of its character.

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