Latest News


Professor Matteo Convertino: 'Building nature as a new infrastructure'

Matteo Convertino, associate professor at the Institute of Environment & Ecology, recently spoke to Shenzhen Daily about nature-based development.

THIS year's government work report stated that China will continue to facilitate ecological advancement, maintain the balance between development and environmental protection, and boost sustainable development, adding that this year China will continue to roll out major engineering projects to protect and restore ecosystems.


Matteo Convertino from Italy is an associate professor at the Institute of Environment & Ecology of Tsinghua Shenzhen International Graduate School and the principal investigator (PI) of the school’s Future Ecosystem Lab (TREES) that is focused on ecosystem risk assessment, sensing and forecasting, management and engineering. In his opinion, nature should be rebuilt as a new infrastructure by leveraging hydroclimatic risks.

意大利生态工程师马泰奥·孔韦尔蒂诺(Matteo Convertino)认为,生态修复应当成为一种新基建,以应对水文气候风险。孔韦尔蒂诺目前担任清华大学深圳国际研究生院环境与生态研究院副教授、该校的未来生态系统实验室(Future Ecosystem Lab)首席研究员,该实验室专注于生态系统风险评估、监测、预估、管理及工程实施。

Matteo Convertino 马泰奥·孔韦尔蒂诺

“Restoration is not just an ecological problem, but also a social problem,” said Convertino during an interview with Shenzhen Daily. “In addition to bringing back ecosystems as they were, we should also consider the needs of the present and future generations within a nature-based development.”


To further explain, the professor cited the efforts of expanding mangrove forests to cope with rising sea level as an example. “The mangrove forests should be expanded not only because they were larger in the past, but also because in the future we may face more problems from the rising sea level as well as other unexpected risks, which will affect our city,” he said.


A scene of Futian Mangrove Wetland at the the IBC 2017 Memorial Garden in Futian Mangrove Ecological Park. Liu Xudong 从福田红树林生态公园南区远眺福田红树林湿地。刘旭东摄

“Mangroves can absorb a huge amount of carbon. Carbon neutrality is not only about reducing emissions from industries and vehicles, but also about improving the capacity of species that are able to 'draw down' the carbon,” he added.


“Sea level is both a climate and local development problem. To solve it, we improve nature because nature can be a boundary, a filter and a flexible barrier not made with concrete, but with plants and all co-dependent species,” he added.


Convertino (in olive-green shirt) visits the nature education exhibition hall at Futian Mangrove Ecological Park with his students. Lin Jianping 孔韦尔蒂诺(身着橄榄色衬衫)与学生们一起参观红树林生态公园科普展厅。林建平摄

During his experience in Shenzhen, Convertino has seen several projects in the city that are aligned towards the objectives of protecting nature, improving the urban built environment and providing a leisure space for residents.


“A mangrove community was restored in Dongchong at the back bay of the beach,” he said. “For the mangrove community, in addition to restoring water flow, they also made new residences, new little houses, where people can go to enjoy their vacations.”


A bird's-eye view of mangrove forests in Dongchong, Dapeng New Area. Liu Xudong 俯瞰东涌红树林湿地。刘旭东摄

Shenzhen Talent Park is another good example of how nature and people can coexist. “The park is a nice space for families to enjoy their time together and is also a necessary habitat for flood protection. It was actually built as a flood protection area. If the tide gets too high, especially in summer concomitant with extreme rainfall, most of the water can be contained in the inner bay that is relatively large and deep,” the professor explained.


A flock of shorebirds, including Kentish plover and dunllins, take a rest on a pebble beach of Talent Park. Wang Haolan 在人才公园石滩上休息的环颈鸻、黑腹滨鹬等候鸟。王皓岚摄

Shenzhen is a city peppered with parks large and small, which provide recreation spaces for its residents. However, the engineer has noticed exotic plant species in many of the parks. “There is a big misconception among people. Many times, I walk in parks and find people believing that the parks are real nature, pristine ecosystems. But in reality, they are not. They are almost totally humanmade,” he said.


A male Eurasian teal at Shenzhen Bay Park. Wang Haolan 深圳湾公园的雄性绿翅鸭。王皓岚摄

“So we must be careful and involve scientists in the process of park construction in order to avoid introducing species that may irreversibly damage the rest of the ecosystems,” the professor said. “I hope that, for the future, universities, government and the industry will work together in deciding what to do, where to do it, and how to do it, considering both restoration and development of new ecosystems by balancing ecology and society in lights of future risks. I believe that we can engineer a much greener environment that is also good for ourselves as human beings.”



Source: Shenzhen Daily