Designing Wildlife Habitats

This article summarizes the “Designing Wildlife Habitats” symposium, where ecologists and landscape architects discussed habitat restoration and climate change in urban areas. One speaker, Nina-Marie Lister, suggested using a “landscape networking strategy” by connecting habitats across scales into the landscape. She used examples such as restoring wetlands and creating wildlife crossings and corridor structures. Another speaker suggested that as climate change continues, species tend to move up in elevation, not north. But in cities, there is not usually space to go up. Creating natural patches with high elevation and northern aspects can act as corridors where species can migrate. Green roofs can be designed to support migrating birds, green streets can reduce storm water runoff and protect fish eggs, and house gardens create ecosystems.

These are all good ideas, but the speaker who stood out most to me was Steven Handel. He works on many habitat restoration projects, such as Fresh Kills Park in New York City. He is turning a 2,000 acre landfill into a park. Because city dirt is polluted and unfit for a natural community, he used dirt from excavation projects in Manhattan which had been buried for a long time. Because of a lack of funding, Handel decided to use nature to restore the area. He planted bushes with fruit to bring birds to the area, which helped to cheaply spread seeds. Ants were added to act as the “landscape contractor of the forest floor,” as they spread plant diversity. He also planted native species using seed trays. The major challenges he is facing as this project goes on is invasive species and seed dispersal.

The Freshkills Park project is an excellent example of rewilding in urban areas. Through further research on the project, I found that it will be three times the size of central park. It was once the world’s largest landfill and will now be a park three times the size of central park. The park will include forest, creeks, wetlands, and meadows. This will provide habitat for a diversity of species and, in my opinion, is the perfect use of space. I am very interested to see how this project will turn out. It is not expected to be finished for another 30 years, but there will be public access throughout the process. Since this space is so big, I am interested to find out how many species it will sustain, as well as their species density. Will they bring in wildlife species, or let them come on their own? It seems like people will have access to most of the areas, so I wonder how much of an impact that will have on the wildlife there. You’re not going to find a lot of untouched habitat in cities, but I assume they will have strict regulations about what humans can and cannot do there. Overall, I’m very excited about this project and I look forward to seeing what this rewilding project will bring.


-Laura Stalter

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