Columbia’s natural resources bring value to our community. Urban trees help cool homes and businesses during extreme heat events. Greenspace supports wildlife, stormwater management, recreation, and the health and well-being of Columbians. Improving and maintaining the quality of water in our lakes and streams, as well as what we drink, is also important to maintaining our resilience as a community.
Through the CAAP process, Columbia identified three strategic goals for Natural Resources:
- Increase climate resilience and carbon sequestration potential of public and private lands.
- Reduce per capita water usage.
- Reduce negative impacts from stormwater runoff and flooding.
Our Flora and Fauna
Biodiversity is the variety of plants and animals in an area. A greater variety of plants attracts a greater variety and number of insects, birds, reptiles and mammals. An ecosystem is stable when there are many different creatures that have a similar role, so that if one were to disappear the other may take its place. The actions outlined in the CAAP work towards diversifying our street tree population and actively managing our natural areas to promote ecosystem stability. These actions include controlling invasive plants, installing a variety of native tree species, and building partnerships with external organizations—including neighborhood associations, non-profit organizations and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Protecting and Conserving Habitat
Collectively, Columbia’s various city departments manage thousands of acres of municipal-owned land. These parcels are in the shape of roadside plantings, parks, trails, soccer fields and designated natural areas. The sites that we manage—along roadsides, natural areas, or along City-maintained easement areas—offer many opportunities to enhance Columbia’s resilience to climate change impacts by increasing the number of plant and animal species.
CoMo Wild Yards Program
The majority of the land in Columbia is privately-owned. Subdividing land tracts creates habitat fragmentation and loss. Without habitat continuity, many wildlife species are unable to find mates or gather enough food to sustain themselves. As a result, many critters will either emigrate or die. Homeowners and businesses that include native plants in their landscaping and eliminate the use of pesticides make Columbia a more biodiverse city. To take these steps toward building a more resilient community, you can get expert advice from City staff and volunteers on how to convert your non-native turf grass or ornamental garden into a wildlife habitat. Learn how to use native plants to maximize your yard and save money on your utility bill. Check out our website for more information!
Did You Know?
Columbia has its own prairie! Columbia Audubon Society and the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department partnered to create the Columbia Prairie on their adjacent properties near Fairview Elementary School. This 8-acre prairie is home to the bees, butterflies and birds that pollinate 86% of our food crops.
Urban Tree Canopy
More Trees, Please!
Trees clean our air, provide shade and habitat, and minimize the impact of flooding in our neighborhoods. In 2017, Columbia reported an urban tree canopy of 36%, meaning that 36% of our community is covered by the layers of tree leaves, branches and stems that provide coverage of the ground when viewed from above. Columbia aims to increase its tree canopy coverage to mitigate heat stress and stormwater runoff in the city. Learn more about our tree canopy on our Urban Forest Master Plan story map.
Saving Water Together
Columbia residents use approximately 5 billion gallons of drinking water each year. Warming temperatures, increasing drought, and other changes in precipitation may limit water resources and raise demand. Therefore, it is essential that we all use water as efficiently as possible.
Water Conservation Solutions
One of the goals laid out in the CAAP is to reduce per capita water usage. Actions include updating the rate structure and building codes to promote water conservation. Outdoor water use accounts for up to 30% of residential usage. Reducing areas of turf grass in favor of more native plants and using smarter irrigation system controls can reduce the amount of drinking-quality water used outside.
Per Capita Water Consumption
Like building energy use, water usage is strongly influenced by weather, specifically summer temperatures and rainfall amounts. The lower per capita usage in 2017 and 2019 corresponds with cooler summer temperatures and higher usage in 2018 with higher relative summer temperatures.
Managing Stormwater Runoff
Columbia’s existing stormwater infrastructure will likely be challenged by more frequent and higher intensity storms. Extreme storm events may lead to more flash flooding with higher volumes of water, which will be difficult for undersized pipes to handle. Columbia seeks to reduce negative impacts from stormwater runoff and flooding by increasing stream buffers and using robust assessment of available data to inform flood risk mitigation.
Be Part of the Solution!
Columbia has a wealth of natural resources that help keep our air and water clean and provide recreational benefits.