Professor of urban biodiversity and ecosystems works toward building ecologically friendly cities

Decision-makers are increasingly understanding the value of urban biodiversity in many parts of the world. Now they are starting to act on research-based knowledge, too, says Ian MacGregor-Fors.

What are your research top­ics?

Although I have a quite diverse array of research interests, most of them converge in the urban biodiversity arena. I am interested in biodiversity patterns and processes that occur in cities and towns that allow us to understand why and how species respond to urbanisation – or seen from another perspective, how urbanisation affects biodiversity.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an im­pact?

Knowledge about urban biodiversity can have many positive implications for citizens. Through in-depth understanding of urban biodiversity, diverse urban management, design, and planning actions can be carried out to maintain ecosystem services (that is, the benefits to humans that wildlife species provide), together with other values, such as ecological and cultural ones.

Using biodiversity as the ecological thermostat of cities and towns, we may even shift the way in which we think about the urbanisation process, toward creating more biodiverse, resilient and livable cities and towns.

What is par­tic­u­larly in­spir­ing in your field right now?

There are two aspects of urban biodiversity that currently inspire me the most. First, urban biodiversity research is blossoming in understudied regions, many of which are home to the majority of global biodiversity. Across the globe, the field is also working toward a more comprehensive understanding of the processes behind patterns that have long been recorded. Thus, I am still focused on some basic urban biodiversity research questions, but am also devoting some of my efforts to more mechanistic ones.

Second, it is only recently that governmental decision-makers of some countries  – Finland included – have understood the value of urban biodiversity, and are seeking to act on evidence-based knowledge to create more ecologically friendly cities and towns.

I am currently leading a project with an initial pilot study in Lahti, in which we seek to understand and integrate aspects of the physical, ecological, and social components of urban areas into citywide models that will better inform decision-makers’ actions. At the same time, the project will establish a solid groundwork for future cutting-edge scientific research.

Ian MacGregor-Fors is a professor of urban biodiversity and ecosystems in the Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

Watch Ian MacGregor-Fors’ inaugural lecture as a new professor on 24.5. on YouTube.

Read about the other newly appointed professors here.