OUIK > News > Special Article by Dr Juan: Urban Nature from Heritage Perspective -Thoughts from Sydney –


Special Article by Dr Juan: Urban Nature from Heritage Perspective -Thoughts from Sydney –

Participating in a large-scale event such as ICOMOS 2023 General Assembly allows you to exchange with experts from various disciplines working in different countries. Here, I want to share what has been discussed and the knowledge acquired regarding my topic, urban nature.

The Culture-Nature Journey

The content of the General Assembly comprised an overarching theme of ¨Heritage Changes, ¨ referring to what heritage changes in civil society, the environment, and the economy, and in what ways heritage is a force for change and integral to creating a sustainable future. The symposium was divided into four themes: Resilience, Responsibility, Rights, and Relationships, and five programs: Indigenous Heritage, Culture-Nature Journey, Heritage for Climate, Heritage as Sustainability, and Digital Heritage. These themes and programs ran parallelly but also had joint sessions and discussions with final remarks providing an overall path for the future of heritage, including cultural landscapes and urban nature. The program I mainly engaged in was the Culture-Nature Journey, a partnership created in 2016 between ICOMOS and IUCN with various partners worldwide. This program builds on the growing evidence that natural and cultural heritage are closely interconnected in most landscapes and seascapes, with a need for synergies at urban and rural settlements for the successful conservation and restoration of ecosystems. The linkage of biological and cultural diversity is vital to delivering the SDGs and responding urgently to climate change, biodiversity loss, and globalization. Our discussion and learning to overcome these challenges is summarized into Traditional Knowledge, Wellbeing, and Connecting Practices. Traditional Knowledge

Urban Nature integrates natural and cultural values that communities consolidate throughout the years, helping to sustain cultural and biological diversity. In Australia, we visited the Blue Mountains National Park; indigenous peoples explained their challenges in preserving their culture and unique ways of relating to Nature. As in Japan, gardens and sacred forests englobes enormous traditional knowledge, however being in danger. To preserve urban Nature, ICOMOS adopted the Florence Charter https://icomosjapan.org/static/homepage/charter/charter1982.pdf. establishing the rules of historic gardens maintenance, conservation, and restoration and the legal and administrative protection applicable to all historic gardens worldwide. My presentation focused on how scientific evidence of urban nature benefits can support their level of protection, and the audience discussed efficient ways to influence policymakers through research findings.


Firstly, seen from the plane window and later walking through Sydney, I admired the network of parks with huge lawns and trees incorporated into their planning. What mostly surprised me was how much people enjoyed these green areas, practicing sports, conversing with friends, eating, enjoying the sun, etc. By experiencing this fact, it is clear how much urban nature benefits the citizens. In the sessions, we recognized well-being benefits, but we went further by studying how climate change, biodiversity loss, and conflict put urban nature at risk. In this discussion, we contributed by showing our latest results of the ongoing surveys on gardens on wildlife, carbon sequestration, and well-being. The audience acknowledged the relevance of gardens as a global urban solution, and the panel discussion I engaged in highlighted how gardens help understand that nature is a primary source of well-being and strengthen the communities’ resilience.

Connecting Practices

ICOMOS and IUCN are using a global platform called “Panorama” to bring together practices from around the world. This helps support long-term solutions that fit different ideas of a good life, as part of their efforts to make the Culture-Nature Journey happen. Therefore, we discussed the continuing challenges for interconnecting nature and culture and its contribution to sustainable development goals, illustrating on-ground case examples showing the benefits of this linkage, focusing on Culture-Nature links in urban areas in diverse and multicultural societies. Through my presentation, I pointed out that due to Japan’s particular context of depopulation, we understand gardens as new green heritage commons engaging citizens and tourists to ensure their future preservation.


Afterall joining the General Assembly has provided me the chance to connect my research with two vital institutions, ICOMOS and IUCN, enhancing global outreach and with previous initiatives reached, such as UNFCCC-Resilience Frontiers and UNEP being able to export Kanazawa model on Sustainable Urban Nature to the world, which is very promising.

Photograph by Kylie Christian, 2023.



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