Nature is a major ally in any climate adaptation strategy. Plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, provide natural cooling during periods of heat stress, and can increase resilience to extreme weather such as drought or heavy rainfall.
But there is more to it: the ecosystems underpinning human life require a high degree of biodiversity as much as a stable climate. The sharp, documented decreases in biodiversity have led scientists to stress the vital importance of proactive strategies to prevent further mass extinction of species.
Finally, the presence of nature in our daily living and/or working environment has a profound influence on our sense of wellbeing, and nature can accommodate for a variety of social goals.
This chapter takes root in these different perspectives on nature to principally ask: how can UAntwerp increase the presence of nature on its campuses and boost and reconcile the different functions that nature provides us with?
Currently, UAntwerp’s nature management set out to enhance the ecological, social and economic functions of on-campus nature. The existing grassland complexes are, for example, developed into flowery, natural grasslands where invertebrates are taken into account by providing permanent roughness. The forest resources are transformed into high-quality forest habitats with mature trees. Existing water features are being upgraded, to enhance water quality and underwater biodiversity. No pesticides are used in the university’s nature management. Together with Corridor, the university has worked out an ambitious and ecological green plan for Campus Drie Eiken to boost biodiversity. These existing plans are excellent touching points for implementing small projects for biodiversity, accelerating the goals of the plans.
- Enhance the biodiversity and support ecosystems on different campuses as much as possible.
- Experiment with highly visible projects (with nature as a key subject) in order to raise awareness about the possibilities and importance of nature from ecological, social and economic perspectives.
Priority action points
- Identifying and implementing local projects with high potential to contribute to the goals of the UAntwerp nature management strategy. When identifying potential projects, it is important to take account of each campus’ specific contexts. Ideas include establishing a flower field, installing insect hotels, carrying out a moss wall experiment, implement a shared community (vegetable/flower) garden.
- Following up on the elaboration of guiding principles for paying attention to the value of biodiversity (forests, bats) when planning new developments.
- Developing one experiment at every campus with installing green roofs and/or green facades at a high-potential location, and evaluating conditions and constraints for upscaling.
- Facilitating initiatives by students and staff to bring nature more into the work and study environment, e.g. by establishing teams that maintain local greenery (new or re-vitalized).
- The Stadscampus has lots of protected buildings which makes it difficult to create green facades.
- Attention has to be paid to finding tools for integrated assessment of the different (possibly competing) goals for roofs (solar panels / rainwater harvesting for re-use / green roofs)