The living world all around us—our lands, waters, and the diversity of life they support—are directly responsible for daily life: air, water, soil, and food. These biodiverse lands and waters are nature’s infrastructure, responsible for cleaning and cooling our air, feeding us, protecting our watersheds, preventing floods, serving as wildlife habitat, enabling healthy, active, outdoor lifestyles, and beautifying our communities beyond measure. In truth, biodiversity makes possible every aspect of our lives. The healthier and more connected these ecological systems are, the greater diversity of life they enable. The greater diversity of life = greater functionality and resilience. Biodiverse communities = strong, sustainable communities.
Today, changes to our living lands and waters are being driven by metropolitan regions, often characterized by high-intensity land use and high degrees of fragmentation. Opportunities exist, however, to simultaneously embrace and accelerate land-sharing and land-saving strategies in cities and their surrounding regions:
- Land-sharing | Solutions that integrate living, natural systems and functionality into the built environment—the places where we live, work, learn, and play.
- Land-saving | Identifying, protecting, and connecting significant tracts of land that make up our local forests, woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, rivers, creeks, and streams, enabling these places to collectively function and thrive in ways that maximize their value as environmental, social, and economic assets.
Activating and maximizing these opportunities requires a regional vision that puts healthy, vibrant living lands and waters at the center of how we design, plan, and sustain our communities. As part of the OneSTL Sustainability Plan, a multi-sector working group focused on biodiversity worked together for the past two years to develop and hone a single target for the region based on this central concept: By 2025, 100 percent of counties in the metropolitan St. Louis region are using a regional biodiversity vision and atlas to actively guide their planning, policies, and practices in ways that increase habitat connectivity, ecological functionality, and quality of life for all.
A still-evolving project of the BiodiverseCity St. Louis network of organizations and individuals, BiomeSTL: Biodiversity of Metropolitan St. Louis is shaping up to serve as both catalytic vision and practical atlas. Part ecological data-directory, species inventory, best practices guide and aspirational plan for a bi-state region connected by nature, BiomeSTL is also, at its core, a citizen science and stewardship project. It not only is designed to aid urban planners, municipalities, counties, and developers in maximizing the benefits of biodiversity for their respective communities, it’s also designed to equip citizens with a greater understanding and appreciation of local biodiversity in ways that strengthen place-based connections, promote healthy, active, nature-rich living, and advance a culture of community-driven land stewardship.