Europe in bloom: a living façade adds life to central Copenhagen

News Published 20 May 2010 Last modified 20 Feb 2017
2 min read
From the depths of oceans to the highest summits, from icy waters to baking deserts, life flourishes in every corner of our planet. On 22 May, World Biodiversity Day, the European Environment Agency shows how by mimicking nature we can redesign our cities to enhance green space and biodiversity.

Ever since life first appeared on Earth, plants and animals have been closely linked to their natural habitats. A species' survival depends not only on its own ability to adapt but often on that of its cohabitants. After all, the disappearance of one species or arrival of another in an ecosystem could mean less food or more predators. Unfortunately, human activity, mainly our consumption of natural resources, is causing an unprecedented decline in global biodiversity.

Cities, as the home to many species, are ecosystems in their own right. They consume, transform and release material and energy. They develop, adapt and interact with other ecosystems. Unlike other ecosystems, however, cities are our primary habitat: three out of four Europeans live in urban areas.

Many city dwellers associate green spaces with higher quality of life. But the importance of urban green spaces does not stop at recreation. They also filter large amounts of water after heavy rainfall and soften the effects of heat waves or other extreme events. The new EEA assessment on urban ecosystems — the sixth in a series of '10 messages for 2010' — reveals that with the right policies and tools, urbanisation does not need to be a threat to biodiversity in cities and beyond.

Short of green space? Think vertically

Vertical gardens are not a new concept but their function has evolved. The 'hanging gardens of Babylon' might have been designed to produce more food and please the eye but today's vertical gardens are also used to insulate buildings, absorb urban noise and reduce dust, thereby improving air quality. Vertical gardens enlarge the potential habitat for city dwelling animals. For non-urban species, they reduce the distances between 'natural areas', facilitating movement and increasing their chances of survival.

To raise awareness about biodiversity in cities and the benefits it delivers, the EEA facade, overlooking one of the most prominent squares of Copenhagen, will be covered by 5 000 plants drawing a map of the European continent. 'Europe in bloom: a living façade' illustrates the diversity of flowering plant species across Europe using 20 annual plant species of varying colours. Realised in close collaboration with many partners, 'Europe in bloom' will be on display at EEA until mid-October.

At the façade's inauguration on 22 May, EEA will host a seminar, 'Citizens meet Science' focusing on the importance of citizen involvement in preserving biodiversity. The EEA will also launch new biodiversity success stories as part of its online 'Environmental Atlas of Europe' and host the photo exhibition 'Living Green' by Mathias Klum – a photographer for National Geographic.


For additional information on urban resiliency and adaptation to climate change, see ICLEI’s First World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change, which will be held in Bonn, Germany, between 28 and 30 May 2010.

For the state of global biodiversity, see 'Global Biodiversity Outlook' report.


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