The city of Guimarães (PT) has created a strategic plan which protects and promotes biodiversity in urban areas. The plan emphasizes the importance of indigenous species and their added value. The main objective is to sensitize and educate citizens and local stakeholders through strong leadership.
The P2GREeN good practice comprises two main steps. Each step includes three different but integrated actions that can be implemented in any city in order to promote and valorise biodiversity:
1) Diagnostic/Characterisation: Alien Species Plan Control; Environmental Education and Reforestation (indigenous species); Creation of a Biodiversity Database;
2) Valorisation of natural routes; Promotion of species observation; Improvement of Nature Tourism.
The P2GREeN good practice (holistic approach) comprises different but integrated actions, which can be implemented by other cities, envisaging to protect/promote biodiversity:
1.1 Invasive Alien Species Plan Control
An initiative laying in characterising, combating and monitoring invasive plant species was implemented.
1.2 Environmental Education – (Re)forestation (autochthones species)
An Educational/Environmental Awareness Program was developed in which children are invited to plant trees and protect them during all its growth stages. Private companies wanted to be a part of the project buying trees to be planted.
1.3 Creation of Biodiversity Database
A mobile app - “Biodiversity GO” - was created aiming to increase the capacity to create a biodiversity database of the city also promoting nature tourism.
2.1 Natural Routes:
Biodiversity routes were created for enjoying the biodiversity of the region, promoting natural heritage, involving school community.
2.2 Promote species observation
The Guimarães Ornithological Observation Centre was created with the purpose of educating and raising awareness of the community to the importance of protecting biodiversity.
2.3 Improvement Nature Tourism
Potential areas become more attractive for locals/tourists. Foster the number of sports events and new activities can lead to the creation of new and sustainable jobs. Promote touristic nature-related activities relating nature and cultural events.
The P2GREeN good practice is fully aligned with the URBACT values as it provides a sustainable and integrated approach that tackles urban challenges. P2GREeN integrated actions are in line with “Green City” momentum as they propose a series of strategic objectives defined for the protection of potential urban areas as defined by Europe’s biodiversity strategy 2020, fully implement birds and habitats directives, maintain and restore ecosystems and their services, increasing the biodiversity and combat invasive alien species. New European Strategy for Biodiversity establishes the need for local actions contributing to averting global biodiversity loss.
The strategy recognises the importance to take into account economic and social benefits deriving from nature's contribution, emphasising the importance of multidisciplinary projects to promote/preserve biodiversity and, consequently, to encourage employment and to promote tourism. In this context, P2GREeN is also an integrated/participative approach by promoting a horizontal integration combining physical, economic, social and environmental dimensions. In 2014, an environmental assessment of the city allowed to develop and define a program to engage and raise awareness among the citizens towards a sustainable territory.
Educating local stakeholders and scholar community through a strong leadership was achieved by promoting the cooperation between all levels of government and local players (promoting a vertical integration).
All actions developed and implemented under P2GREeN are based on a participatory approach, promoting public/private interactions, recognizing the importance of citizens’ science concepts and community engagement. The PEGADAS environmental program unites more than 30 partners from different fields, contributing to the P2GReEN holistic approach. The PEGADAS partners have the responsibility of organising actions in a school context aiming to educate students on sustainable behaviours.
The mobile app Biodiversity GO! was made under the citizens’ science concept, where people were invited to create the municipal biodiversity database. The reforestation program is per se a participatory process comprising two interrelated levels, from education to private engagement. It is a program aiming at sensitising the community to the importance of native species.
Technical information about indigenous species was produced by technicians from City Hall. The information comprised procedures about seed identification and collection, growing and plantation. Students were invited to collect seeds from the schools’ neighbours. Afterwards, at school they planted and took care of their own tree.
Later City Hall launched a campaign for individuals so that they also could participate in planting trees. Finally, the promotion process including the biodiversity routes or the species observations are also participatory, as citizens and students are encouraged to participate.
The environmental program PEGADAS comprises more than a hundred activities involving more than three dozen partners reaching all schools in the country. In the first year of implementation PEGADAS took the environmental debate to all students of Guimarães. The forestation program allowed the planting of more than 15,000 trees in Guimarães. Also, other initiatives generated from PEGADAS – such as Youth EcoParliament – allow students to propose solutions for biodiversity improvement. The mobile application Biodiversity GO! also allows the creation of a database of species found in Guimarães. Natural routes were already identified and integrated in the city routes system. The routes were tested with citizens’ participation, and to achieve that, several events were developed. Taken together, these results contributed to the promotion of biodiversity in Guimarães.
The importance of promoting and preserving urban biodiversity is being highly discussed by the international conservation community. Researchers working in this field confirm that urban areas are often places of great species richness and can be centres of local and regional biodiversity. In this context, it has been highlighted not only the importance of conservation of rare species and habitats but also the importance of managing the range of habitats in and around where people live, work, and play. Thus, it is our firm belief that P2GREeN good practice is of great interest to other EU cities, in particular, those wishing to develop an integrated Urban Biodiversity Plan to protect and promote the biodiversity of their urban green areas. The implementation of P2GREeN Good Practice can help cities to shape the pattern and distribution of urban biodiversity, contributing also to specific social goals, such as community-based management, sustainable development and poverty reduction in cities. The Good Practice is divided into a hierarchy of planning phases. Strategic planning is conducted to make decisions about sustainable harvest levels, plantation of local species while taking into account legislation and policy issues (reference). In addition, it also comprises a series of actions to foster nature-based tourism and promotes participation of the citizen.