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Urban Landscapes and Biodiversity

Course Code: BIOL 2302
Faculty: Science & Technology
Department: Biology
Credits: 5.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab, Tutorial
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course examines cities and people’s lifestyles from an ecosystem perspective. The properties of the city as a natural environment are described. The impact of cities on surrounding natural environments and more remote ecosystems which serve as supply networks are explored. Global examples of urbanization are discussed in general and local examples are considered in detail. The theme of sustainability will be used to analyze options for change to protect and restore natural ecosystems.

Course Content

  1. Basic characteristics of urban ecosystems
    • habitat loss
    • change in local climate - albedo effect, heat island, wind
    • impact on water cycle
    • disturbance to soil structure
    • changes in species interactions
    • ecosystems of Greater Vancouver - North Shore Systems, Coastal/Intertidal Systems/Fraser River Systems, Fraser Lowland Systems
    • the effects of introduced species on natural ecosystems
  2. Unique urban habitats and their properties
    • forest and shrub communities
    • freshwater landscapes
    • open spaces
    • barren and paved landscapes
    • corridors
    • garden and public landscapes
  3. Urban Biodiversity
    • levels of biodiversity
    • native versus introduced species
    • threats to native ecosystems and species
    • indicator species most tolerant and species least tolerant to urban conditions
    • rare and endangered species in urban areas
    • urban areas as reservoirs of genetic diversity
  4. Urban hydrology
    • infiltration, runoff and groundwater recharge
    • impact of impervious surface
    • storm drains and storm water management
    • detention and retention ponds as habitats
  5. Water quality
    • point and nonpoint sources of pollution
    • inorganic chemicals and minerals
    • sources and impacts of organic oxygen demanding nutrients
    • petroleum, synthetic organics and urban runoff
    • sewage treatment plants, waterfowl and pathogens
    • sediment loading
  6. Streamkeepers guide to stream and wetland care
    • stream habitat survey
    • water quality survey
    • stream invertebrate survey
    • juvenile fish trapping and identification
    • streamside planting, fencing and channel improvement
    • community awareness
  7. Stream Stewardship: A Guide for Planning and Development
    • Official community plans
    • Zoning bylaws
    • Design approvals
    • Environmental design standards
    • Construction management
  8. Community Greenways: Linking communities to country and people to nature
    • Greenways planning and natural systems
    • Practical benefits of community greenways
    • Planning for community greenways
    • Greenways implementation
    • Greenways management
  9. Naturescape guide to caring for wildlife habitat at home
    • components of wildlife habitat
    • wildlife shelters
    • theme gardens – hummingbirds, butterflies, songbirds
    • designing gardens for wildlife
    • co-existing with wildlife – windows, conflicts
  10. Land use planning
    • categories of land use and conflicts
    • housing options and environmental benefits - intensification, building design
    • transportation - nodal development, town centres, mass transit, bicycle paths
    • green space - parks, sanctuaries, easements, restrictive covenants, edge effects
    • case studies e.g. East Clayton project, Surrey
  11. Sustainable communities, protection and restoration of urban ecosystems
    • three legged stool model - environment, economy, social equality
    • sustainability indicators
    • bioregionalism
    • case studies e.g. Greater Vancouver Regional District Liveable Region Strategy, Georgia Basin Ecosystem Initiative

Methods of Instruction

This course involves four hours per week of classroom instruction and three hours per week of field trips.  Classroom work will include lectures and tutorials, and is integrated with textbook, scientific journal readings and case studies.  The field trips are designed to complement the theory content of the course.

Means of Assessment

Midterm examination 25%
Final examination 25%
Field trip reports  30%
Term project 20%


  1. Field trip reports will consist of 5 reports worth 5 marks each involving analysis, and 5 worth 1 mark each that are descriptions of site visits.
  2. The final exam will be comprehensive and cover the entire course.
  3. The term project will include an oral presentation and a paper.
  4. For Habitat Restoration Program students, 15 marks of the 30 for field trips will be assigned to a habitat restoration project.  Three of the BIOL 2302 field trips will become optional for HRP students.
  5. HRP students will be required to design a community based habitat restoration project in consultation with a community group, government department or other client for 15 marks.
  6. HRP students will be required to conduct their major 20 mark project on a wetland topic applied to a local situation.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the following: 

  1. Major differences between the composition of natural ecosystems in an urban ecosystems.
  2. The variety of unique urban habitats created by urban development, the unique composition of urban flora and fauna, and how the urban environment effects their life histories.
  3. The impact of urbanization on biodiversity.
  4. Changes in surface and groundwater flows due to urbanization, and the changes to river and lake ecosystems which result.
  5. The types of water pollutants found in freshwater and marine environments of urban areas, and their effects.
  6. Stream and wetland care, stream habitat and water quality survey, sampling stream fauna and stream enhancement.
  7. Stream planning and development with reference to official community plans, zoning bylaws, design approvals, environmental design standards and construction management.
  8. Greenways planning with natural systems, practical benefits of community greenways, planning for community greenways, greenways implementation and greenways management.
  9. Caring for wildlife habitat at home with reference to components of wildlife habitat, wildlife shelters, theme gardens – hummingbirds, butterflies, songbirds and co-existing with wildlife-windows, conflicts.
  10. Land use planning and how it can be used to reduce the impact of cities on natural ecosystems.
  11. The concept of sustainability and the major components of sustainable communities in terms of protecting and restoring local natural ecosystems.

course prerequisites

BIOL 1110 and BIOL 1210 with a C- or better, or C- or better in BIOL 1310 or permission of instructor

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.