LOCAL authorities need to stop planning on a piecemeal basis and start protecting "green infrastructure", such as parks, farmland and drinking water supplies close to cities, a leading ecologist has said.
Harvard Professor Richard Forman told a conference in Dublin yesterday that an "urban tsunami" was sweeping across the world and unless cities and towns were planned around green spaces, the population of urban centres would suffer.
And he said that farms and market gardens should be located close to cities so transport costs, as well as emissions from vehicles, could be reduced.
"The piecemeal approach has been done too often, we need to think globally, plan regionally and act locally. We have to think of an urban region as a big powerhouse, a lot depends on it," he told the 'Green Infrastructure: Connecting Nature, People and Places' conference.
"The cities are spreading out, we're at the beginning of an urban tsunami. You can't expect the Boyne Valley to remain that way without planning."
Environment Minister John Gormley said that protecting green infrastructure was one of the most important steps planners could take to protect wildlife, but that Ireland faced "serious challenges" in this regard.
"There are many compelling reasons why we should treat our green infrastructure as a valuable asset," he said.
"Ireland faces serious challenges to conserve our biodiversity. Factors such as development, intensive agriculture, invasive alien species and, of course, climate change all pose serious threats to our biodiversity and the ecosystems it supports."