The Key Lies in the Species

Between 2001 and 2030, the amount of urban land in the world is expected to triple. We are currently half way there. More urban land means less habitat for wildlife. Right now, 17% of the estimated 800 species of North American birds are on their way to extinction. If they continue to lose habitat as cities grow, there will be no chance of increasing avian wildlife. Therefore, if we increase bird habitat within urban areas, bird populations and diversity can begin to rise.

In this article, the author shows the importance of trees in relation to increasing wildlife. It seems so simple—create habitat where wildlife can live and you’re good to go. The issue here is that just planting trees does not mean that there is more habitat for the birds and other wildlife. The key lies in the species of trees. For example, whereas a common tree species, Gingkoes, provides habitat for three species, an oak tree can host 537 species. The article says, “Research has shown that oaks benefit everything from caterpillars to songbirds. Even fish prosper, because the aquatic invertebrates they feed on favor oak leaves on stream bottoms.”

There are many factors that go into a bird’s habitat, including breeding, shelter, and food. The article makes the point that “a single pair of Carolina chickadees needs to bring 6,000-9,000 caterpillars to the nest to rear a clutch of a half-dozen nestlings.” Not only do you need the right tree species for the bird’s nests, but you need the right plants and shrubs for the caterpillars and other prey. The article also points out that native species are usually more beneficial, which is something to consider when rewildling an area. Simple things such as planting native shrubs which provide habitat for many species between lawns, mowing lawns every two weeks instead of every week to increase pollinators, and keeping cats indoors, can prevent the loss of billions of birds every year in the United States.

An interesting thing that the article brought up the “Britain in Bloom Contest.” This is a contest for green cities, with many environmental criteria such as pollinators. This results in large scale planting efforts in British cities. Imagine if we did the same thing in the United States? If we had a competition between urban areas to see who could create the greenest city? This could have a great impact on rewilding urban areas—and not just for wildlife. It could get people involved in creating more green spaces, stressing the importance of native vegetation which provides the most habitat for wildlife as possible.

This article showed that when rewilding, you need to consider what kind of plants you are creating for your wildlife’s habitat. Just planting trees won’t do the trick—you have to pay attention to which trees you’re planting. This is definitely dependent on the type of wildlife in a specific area and its native vegetation. Before you can begin a rewilding process, you must have a complete understanding of the natural community where the city lies. Then, you must use that knowledge to create a habitat which can sustain the highest possible diversity of species.

Link: file:///Users/laurastalter/Documents/Urban Nature: How to Foster Biodiversity in World’s Cities by Richard Conniff: Yale Environment 360.webarchive

-Laura Stalter

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