Caring for nature, including people, all other species and the natural environment in which they live, is and has always been a core value to local and Indigenous cultures, and has more recently become part of the urban sustainability agenda. Understanding of the wide range of benefits provided by nature – and the recognition of how colonial settlements and uncontrolled urban growth have weakened nature’s capacity to thrive in cities – are generating an awareness of the importance of protecting nature in urban environments. Not surprisingly, researchers and practitioners have been exploring how best to manage existing nature in cities to provide positive results for people and other species.
Bringing nature back into cities is an emerging pathway of research and practice that advocates for the return of nature into urban environments. It embodies actions that encourage the return of locally native species to areas within cities where they are rare or locally extinct. As such it is often a key feature of urban sustainability (e.g. urban greening) and conservation (e.g. ecological restoration) approaches.
We present perspectives on seven key areas needed to fully unlock the potential of bringing nature back into cities. Specifically, we argue that (1) the sovereignty of local and Indigenous knowledge-systems be acknowledged and respected; (2) the choice of actions to bring nature back should be driven by an inclusive decision-making process; (3) key advances in the field of ecology would need to be considered to facilitate the return of nature into cities; (4) established communication theories can help us understand how actions to bring nature back spread throughout social networks; (5) built-environment professionals can help demonstrate to clients, research institutions and local governments the value of urban infrastructure for bringing nature back into cities; (6) long-term research needs to be established to provide evidence of the benefits of actions to bring nature back; and (7) solutions need to be brought forward to address concerns about potential risks associated with bringing nature back actions.
We hope our perspectives provide energy and encouragement for individuals, communities and organisations to think creatively about the ways in which rare and locally extinct species can be brought back into urban environments. We believe that bringing nature back into cities has the potential to become a vital dimension of the 21st century’s urban-sustainability agenda upon which future generations of city-dwellers rely.