Biodiversity in dense urban areas. A closer look at the Dens’Cité project

The aim of Dens’Cité is to develop inter-disciplinarity in research on biodiversity in dense urban areas. Focus on one of the 13 “Society and Environment” projects encouraged by Sorbonne University.

Dens’Cité is one of thirteen projects chosen from the call for proposals launched by Sorbonne University in 2013 on the theme “society and environment”, as part of the Convergence program.

Project summary

The Dens'Cité program brings together researchers from the National Museum of Natural History (MNHM), the Pierre et Marie Curie University (UPMC) and the Paris-Sorbonne University. It aims to study the dynamics of urban biodiversity, of its social acceptance and management, within a political climate where densification is encouraged, by combining research in the fields of ecology, geography, political science and conservation sciences. 


In order to develop this inter-disciplinary approach, we first need to bring together the research teams from Sorbonne University institutions working on subjects related to biodiversity and urban densification. To do this, the program partners hold a regular seminar open to all researchers, Ph.D. candidates and Master’s degree students at Sorbonne University interested in these topics.


Furthermore, thanks to financial backing from Sorbonne University, they are conducting or about to launch research on various topics: 

  • the influence of culture procedures inspired by the circular economy on the growth of plants: use of technosols made from work site backfill, urban rainwater for sprinkling or substances such as pigeon guano for fertilisation 

  • the effects of urban pollution on biodiversity in the city

  • biodiversity in urban production gardens

  • the role of biodiversity and nature in the appeal of a city

  • inclusion of biodiversity in public densification policies, particularly in the context of the Grand Paris project


Initial repercussions and medium-term goals


Dens’Cité has already allowed us to bring together teams from different Sorbonne University instutitions that did not know one another and it now represents a community of some fifty people. The aim at completion of the program is to encourage collaboration between disciplines. The MNHM’scenter for ecology and conservation sciences (Cesco), which has a partnership agreement with the Seine-Saint-Denis region, is for example going to be developing projects in this region with the research unit “Espaces, nature et culture” (Enec) of Paris-Sorbonne University, comprising a team of geographers. The two laboratories will be working on the relationships between citizens and urban nature.


Dens’Cité has also enabled researchers from Sorbonne University to forge links with a team from AgroParisTech on urban agriculture, which could also lead to subsequent collaborations.


The Dens’Cité seminars

Seminar of October 16, 2015

Location: Amphithéâtre Rouelle at the National Museum of Natural History (43 rue Cuvier - 75005 Paris)
Scientific participants: Florence Brondeau, Julien Gasparini and Anne-Caroline Prévot


Nature in the city


In the form of short presentations, the project team proposes a summary of the projects carried out between March 2014 and October 2015. This day-long event will also provide the opportunity to discuss the future of collaborations in progress within this research field. Supported by the Convergence program “Society and environment: knowledge and challenges”, the Dens’Cité research project will be the subject of a seminar to provide feedback on the work carried out on relationships between citizens and nature.


The day’s agenda


Seminar of December 19, 2014

Entitled “Art, écologie et ville”, the last session on December 19, 2014 brought in three outside presenters: Chloé Roubert, a Canadian artist in residence at the MNHM, a member of the artist group Natural Movement and the co-founder of the Coalition for art and sustainable development (COAL), two movements that aim to promote a culture of ecology supported by art and working in partnership with scientists.


Their presentations addressed the connection between an individual’s relationship with nature in the city and his/her relationsuip with others, and showed how an artist and a work of art can contribute to reflections on urban biodiversity.

The participants in Dens’Cité

Project leader

MNHN: Center for ecology and conservation sciences (Cesco), UMR 7204.

Partners at Sorbonne University

  • MNHN: Eco-anthropology and ethnobiology, UMR 7206.

  • Paris-Sorbonne University : 

    • Spaces, nature and culture (Enec), UMR 8185

    • Centre André Chastel, UMR 8150,

    • Editing, interpreting, translating ancient texts (Editta), EA 1491.

  • UPMC: Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IEES Paris), UMR 7618.

External partners

  • Paris Sud University: Ecologie, systématique et évolution, UMR 8079,

  • AgroParisTech, UMR SAD-APT (Sciences, action, development - Activities, products, territories)

  • Espaces: an association that is developing an innovative project for soft management of evolving urban spaces helping individuals in difficulty achieve social integration.

Project managers

  • Florence Brondeau, Enec

  • Julien Gasparini, IEES Paris

  • Anne-Caroline Prévot, Cesco.

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