UBC Undergraduate Research

UBC SEEDS Biodiversity Policies and Practices Analysis Bertogg, Philip; Sanhedrai, Tovi; Tough, Cameron


In 1992, the United Nations stated in their Convention on Biological Diversity that “ [we must be] conscious of the intrinsic value of biological diversity and of the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic values of biological diversity and its components” . This was the beginning of a global effort to rethink the way developments in our societies affect the diversity of life and the ecosystems around us. The University of British Columbia does not currently have a single plan which addresses biodiversity across campus. This has encouraged Campus + Community Planning to spearhead the creation of a policy which addresses biodiversity campus-wide. Creating this policy is necessary because UBC exists as its own jurisdiction, separate from Vancouver, and has its own governing body. Therefore, development on campus is done independently from Vancouver’s guidelines and approvals, requiring UBC to create its own policies that address building and operating guidelines. One such policy, The Campus Plan, declares that UBC’s academic mission is the University’s core business, meaning that any modifications to the physical change and design strategies for future growth must reinforce the University’s academic teaching, research and learning objectives. Consequently, this suggests that without the guidance and reinforcement of a proper biodiversity strategy, these concerns will not be met. At first, our goal of creating recommendations for UBC was to review any current documents relating to sustainable development on campus in general. This was meant to provide a framework which we could build on with any biodiversity recommendations we encountered. Some examples of policies that we considered are: The Campus Plan, The Green Building Plan, and The Integrated Stormwater Plan. These policies covered topics such as the layout and design of the campus, uses for stormwater management, green building planning and guidelines, and campus land use allocation. Then, we compared policies from all over the world at every scale: country, city, and institution. Examples include Australia, Edmonton, Metro Vancouver, Surrey, Singapore and United Nations, as well as the Cities Biodiversity Index, which was created by Singapore. Finally, we reviewed any other policies regarding biodiversity that fit into our framework. These included topics such as pollination, renewable energy, water action plan and invasive species. It was during this review process that we realized the magnitude of information and potential changes that we would encounter in this evolving global effort. This forced us to consider whether a single, static document made from whatever fraction of potential policies we were able to review would be a sufficient contribution to the desired improvements on campus. It was that notion that caused us to rethink our method and come up with the Biodiversity Matrix. The Biodiversity Matrix is built to be a live document. By creating an interface which allows anyone who is reviewing a policy for biodiversity enhancing ideas to input any relevant, actionable items directly into it, we have created something that will change and grow, just as new policies and ideas are changing and being created. This also creates one single tool which over time will become UBC’s best summary of all biodiversity policies from around the world. The other aspect which is important about our Matrix, is that is selectively isolates only actionable items. There are vast amounts of systems thinking, and elaborately worded passages which inspire the idea of biodiversity in each policy we reviewed, but narrowing these documents down to actionable items which may lead to tangible results often yielded scarce amounts of information. With the interaction and simplicity of a Google Sheet, the inevitable “fluff” which would take up the vast percentage of each policy would be eliminated, leaving direct and impactful solutions to biodiversity concerns, with references to the exact page it was found so that one could go to read more about the context and thinking that went into each item. When deciding on the context of our Biodiversity Matrix, we first determined that UBC does not take a preservationist point of view, meaning that our approach has to work alongside development rather than against it. The matrix therefore uses UBC’s Major Capital Projects Development Process (which is used for projects which are more than $5 million), and divides it then categorized each actionable item we found by a number of broad categories that fit within each step of the development plan. Each actionable item was given a keyword and page number, which can be used to find the relevant policy, linked in the matrix’s glossary. We also included an ‘Additional Information Section’, which serves to encapsulate all of the information that could not be fit in the above sections, as well as having valuable information such as additional documents and the definition of terms. Finally, while reading each policy we kept in the back of our minds the future development of Stadium Road Neighbourhood. This neighbourhood is located on the southern end of UBC’s Point Grey Campus and is directly adjacent to an old growth forest (which is currently protected). The development will hopefully be underway in the first quarter of 2019 and will be a combination of high rise, mid size buildings as well as townhouses. The developed area will also include pedestrian and bike paths as well as greenspace. Finding applications for our matrix in the development of Stadium Road is our first goal in testing it's value. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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