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Nature Needs the City
The level of biodiversity in metropolitan areas is enormous – but in jeopardy


Topic of the year prompted action

When combating the loss of biodiversity, settled areas offer a great deal of potential. In that context, the Botanical Garden of the University of Bern (BOGA) and the Department of Parks and Greenspace Service (Stadtgrün Bern) launched a one-year campaign under the heading of “Nature Needs the City – Promoting Biodiversity in Bern” from April to October 2021. Many different activities and hands-on assistance motivated the people of Bern to create near-natural habitats.


The insect die-off, endangered wild plants and the decline in the songbird population – these reports come as a shock to many. Citizens are increasingly contacting the Office of Nature and Ecology of the Stadtgrün Bern to ask what they can do to halt this trend. In the meantime, one thing has become clear: For years now, the loss of biodiversity has been proceeding at a rapid pace, not just in Switzerland but around the entire world, and many species are being lost forever. “There’s an enormous amount of pressure on urban biodiversity, which contributes substantially to overall biodiversity. Promoting urban biodiversity is also extremely important because the nature most people experience in their day-to-day lives is urban nature,” says Markus Fischer, Director of BOGA, Professor for Plant Ecology at the University of Bern and internationally acclaimed expert on biodiversity.

It goes to follow that the more people who take action to create additional near-natural spaces, the better this is for biological diversity. While having your own garden might help in these efforts, it’s not needed. Biodiversity can be promoted on every windowsill, balcony and outdoor space, whether on the ground, on walls or on the roof. Often, though, people looking to get involved quickly have a long list of targeted questions: Which measures are right for me? Do I have enough space? Can I create and maintain the desired biosphere myself or do I have to have that done by a professional gardening company? And how much does it cost?

In a nutshell

“We’re witnessing a global mass extinction, the speed of which is comparable to the extinction of the dinosaurs. This time, though, it’s being caused by humans.”
Prof. Dr. Markus Fischer

Many ways to promote biodiversity

The topic of the year, “Nature Needs the City – Promoting Biodiversity in Bern”, offered a wide range of practical aids and activities from the end of April to the end of October 2021: Seven urban walks to near-natural habitats, a widely diverse program featuring exhibitions and other supporting events, and an interactive city map. The special exhibit entitled “Of Niches and Kingdoms” at BOGA presented small structures and nesting aids while also offering useful tips to help people implement the measures at home. Information about which animal species are found and can be nurtured in Bern was provided at the Natural History Museum and the animal park; Elfenau Park had an exhibit featuring every type of shrub native to the region.

The detailed practical handbook entitled “Natur braucht Stadt – Mehr Biodiversität in Bern” (Nature Needs the City – Promoting Biodiversity in Bern) serves as a basis for anyone who wants to create a near-natural habitat on their own. The

handbook is available for download at, where you’ll also find a summary of the topic of the year.

In a nutshell

“Compared to the rest of Europe, Switzerland has a record-setting list of endangered species. The Federal Office for the Environment confirms year after year that over a third, even higher for some groups of organisms, of all local species are endangered or have already disappeared.”
Prof. Dr. Markus Fischer

Bernese pioneers

The City of Bern and BOGA have been fighting for years to halt biodiversity loss. In 2012, Bern became the first Swiss city to have a biodiversity concept. Wherever possible, Stadtgrün Bern creates new habitats for plants and animals in public green spaces and maintains them properly: new wild hedges, new ponds, fields of flowers or “wild greenery” along the streets are just a few examples of this.

Through exhibitions, guided tours, readings and other activities, BOGA promotes awareness about the risk to biodiversity, teaches about how enormously important biodiversity is for people and shows ways to promote biodiversity ( Biodiversity is one of the priorities of research and teaching activities at the University of Bern. For more information on the topic, please refer to the UniPress interview with Markus Fischer from November 2021.

“The clock stands at five minutes to midnight for biological diversity”

UN Biodiversity Conference

Another attempt at halting species extinction

The Convention on Biological Diversity, also known as the Biodiversity Convention, is the most important international treaty on the protection of biodiversity. The tenth Conference of the Parties in 2010 featured the adoption of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which should have been reached by 2020. And were undeniably missed. The follow-up agreement to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets was to be adopted at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15). The COP15 had originally been scheduled to take place in October 2020 in Kunming, China, but was postponed to October 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first phase of the negotiations was then held as a video conference and produced a very unspecific declaration centered around protecting 30 percent of the Earth’s surface. The follow-up agreement to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets is to be adopted at an in-person meeting in China during the first half of 2022. Markus Fischer, Professor for Plant Ecology and Director of the Botanical Garden of the University of Bern, is actively involved in IPBES, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, as an internationally acclaimed expert. There, he has helped devise science-based recommendations for action for the UN Biodiversity Conference and has contributed comments on the initial drafts of the new targets, referred to as the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.