How Cities and Wildlife Can Be Friends Instead of Enemies

We generally think of cities as devoid of nature. These crowded, homogenized, noisy environments seem to be the exact opposite of natural, and we’re correct in surmising that their creation is detrimental to wild species. “We paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” as the song goes.

But recent research suggests that while it may not be her first choice, Mother Nature’s adaptation skills make it possible for cities and wildlife to coexist, and even flourish.

Charles Nilon, a professor of fisheries and wildlife at the University of Missouri, recently published a study which found that while urbanization is hurting overall biodiversity, certain birds and plants thrive in cities. The results of this study suggest that paying more attention to the way we design and develop our urban areas could encourage a more symbiotic relationship between humans and the flora and fauna.

In the study, investigators from the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia examined the birds in 54 cities and plants in 110 cities worldwide. Cities studied included Baltimore, Berlin, Jalisco (Mexico), New York City, Phoenix, Potchefstroom (South Africa) and Stockholm. Nilon said the researchers found four types of birds that actually prefer concrete jungles – pigeons, waterfowl, raptors and house sparrows.

Which leads us to the moral of the story: how can we ensure that cities, plants and animals get along even better in the future? With more than 50 percent of humanity now living in cities (and 60 percent of the land projected to become urban by 2030 has yet to be built), it’s unrealistic to suggest that we stop building them. So we have to build them differently.

Nilon’s research suggests that urban planners should create new habitats to strengthen these city-dwelling bird and plant populations and attract new species. “The greatest loss in plant and animal density occurs in older cities that have a lack of plant cover,” he explained. So setting standards for the preservation and restoration of green spaces, with special focus on native plant species, is essential. The success of green roofing and urban agriculture initiatives in some of the world’s biggest cities proves that this can be done in a way that’s beneficial to both humans and wildlife.

In this way, cities can become havens where wildlife and plants are equally important residents, and perhaps the urban areas of tomorrow will be healthier, more pleasant places to be. For all of us.

(Read full Care2.com article here)

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