LEAF + LUSH = BiodiverCity?

When we think about biodiversity, we have some pre-set ideas in our minds of dense rainforests, native grasslands and other pristine landscapes. But what about cities?

Biodiversity in pristine landscapes (Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park) or in cities (Dubai)? (Credits: Vedrana Tafra & Franck Boutonnet)

Biodiversity in pristine landscapes (Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park) or in cities (Dubai)? (Credits: Vedrana Tafra & Franck Boutonnet)

Given that urban areas are growing, it is important to start thinking about biodiversity within cities or more fondly known as concrete jungles. How can we increase biodiversity within the constraints of an urban setting? Perhaps we can look at the City in a Garden[1], Singapore and her two new initiatives, LEAF and LUSH and see if we can draw anything from them.

Landscape Excellence Assessment Framework (LEAF) [2]

LEAF- certified Outstanding Project: ADANA @ Thomson (Condominium) (Credits: NParks, 2014)

LEAF- certified Outstanding Project: ADANA @ Thomson (Condominium) (Credits: NParks, 2014)

What: Award scheme valid for three years.
When: Launched in 2013.
Why: Encourage developments to uphold a high standard of ecological provision and management for both new and existing developments.

Assessment Criteria for LEAF (Credits: CUGE, 2014)

Assessment Criteria for LEAF (Credits: CUGE, 2014)

Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (LUSH)[3]

Parkroyal at Pickering (Hotel) under the LUSH scheme (Credits: Patrick Bingham-Hall)

Parkroyal at Pickering (Hotel) under the LUSH scheme (Credits: Patrick Bingham-Hall)

What: Part of the planning regulation for mandatory landscape replacement in new and redevelopment projects within designated zones comprising of downtown central areas, certain growth areas and town centres[4].
When: Launched in 2009, upgraded to Version2.0 in 2014.
Why: Encourage and facilitate pervasive urban greenery that is accessible so as to improve overall living and working environment.

Concept of landscape replacement of LUSH (Credits: URA, 2014)

Concept of landscape replacement of LUSH (Credits: URA, 2014)

Under fire?

Here is what the critics might say:

“LEAF is only appealing to developers if green developments are appealing to consumers!”
“Developers are only interested in using LEAF to increase selling prices of their developments.”
“LEAF may not have long term effect as there is minimal incentives to renew applications or keep up with efforts once the development has been sold or after it expires after three years.”
“Will LUSH and its high-rise greenery attract birds and lead to increased bird collision and mortality[5], [6]?”
“Is LUSH an onsite offset initiative in disguise but without the principles of equivalence and additionality ingrained?”

But before you throw LEAF and LUSH into the fire pit, read on..

Increasing BiodiverCity?

Take a closer look. LEAF and LUSH are actually complementary. LEAF places more emphasis on the quality and ecological role of greenery, whereas LUSH is more concerned about the basic quantity of greenery to be replaced. It is like playing Lego, where LUSH is the foundation with LEAF stacking above, making the blocks taller. LEAF also functions more like a carrot (incentive) and LUSH, being mandatory, like a stick (regulatory).

In addition, if we look beyond the two initiatives and at the context in which it sits, we will find LEAF and LUSH takes on the role of encouraging private sector involvement in biodiversity measures where current initiatives are mostly public sector projects.

Examples of public sector projects include the Park Connector Network[7] and Nature Ways[8] that aim to increase connectivity between Nature Reserves and urban parks.

Nature Way along public roads (Credits: NParks, 2015)

Nature Way along public roads (Credits: NParks, 2015)

Public flats which houses more than 80% of the locals [9] have also included ‘eco’ features in their new developments, bringing biodiversity even closer to the people.

Example of eco features in new HDB estate at Tampines (Credit: HDB, 2014)

Example of eco features in new HDB estate at Tampines (Credit: HDB, 2014)

To sum up, LEAF and LUSH may not be perfect. But given that they complement each other and other public sector projects, perhaps the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

To leave you with more food for thought, how does all these measures fit into the concept of a biophilic city[10]? Is a biophilic city the way forward?

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About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
This entry was posted in biodiversity conservation and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to LEAF + LUSH = BiodiverCity?

  1. Chloe says:

    Really interesting! Are there any papers or online resources that indicate how effective LEAF and LUSH are in encouraging biodiversity back into cities? It would also be cool to compare LEAF and LUSH with urban initiatives in other countries – are initiatives similar or different? From what scientific evidence have these initiatives been developed?

  2. Living in a grey, concrete jungle is cold and depressing. I like the LEAF and LUSH projects, as I imagine they brighten up buildings and give the city a more natural feel. With cities being major producers of carbon dioxide, photosynthetic plants would help to absorb some of this pollution. As you mentioned, the upkeep of these green areas after several years will require incentive for apartment/building owners. Perhaps annual inspections of the areas should apply, with penalties if they are at an agreed standard. Regardless, with urbanisation on the increase, projects like this are topical and worth knowing about, making this a very interesting blog.
    Sarah Maguire

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