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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


January-February 2012

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UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in an Urbanized World

Threats to maintaining biodiversity are many and connected.1,2 Political, economic, and social transformations, such as industrialization, collectivization, trade liberalization, state retreat, and the growing power of supranational institutions and private corporations, plus the shifting geography of populations, lead to drastic land use changes and consequent habitat degradation or destruction. Upon all of these convulsive factors, the long-term effects of climate change are superimposed. Among the most critical transformations that have had profound impacts on land use from local to global scale since the mid-twentieth century is urbanization. In 2007, half of the world's population lived in cities, a proportion expected to increase to nearly 60 percent by 2030.3 Urban growth is most rapid in developing countries, where on average five million people every month move to cities.4 By 2030 it is estimated that more than two billion people will be living in urban slums, with limited access to basic services, limited participation in decision making, and facing extreme vulnerability to natural disasters.5,6

A. Cristina de la Vega-Leinert is a senior researcher and lecturer at the Geography Institute, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University Greifswald, Germany.

Marcelo Antunes Nolasco is an associate professor at the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Susanne Stoll-Kleemann is a professor at the Geography Institute, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University Greifswald, Germany.

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