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Urban Nature: How to Foster Biodiversity in World’s Cities


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A peregrine falcon soars above New York City's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. MTA/Patrick Cashin
As the world becomes more urbanized, researchers and city managers from Baltimore to Britain are recognizing the importance of providing urban habitat that can support biodiversity. It just may be the start of an urban wildlife movement.
 
A few years ago in Baltimore County, Maryland, environmental staffers were reviewing a tree-planting proposal from a local citizens group. It called for five trees each of 13 different species, as if in an arboretum, on the grounds of an elementary school in a densely-populated neighborhood.

It seemed like a worthy plan, both for the volunteer effort and the intended environmental and beautification benefits. Then someone pointed out that there were hardly any oaks on the list, even though the 22 oak species native to the area are known to be wildlife-friendly. Local foresters, much less local wildlife, could barely recognize some of the species that were being proposed instead. As if to drive home the logical inconsistencies, both the school and the neighborhood were named after oak trees. 

"Why are we doing this?" someone wondered. 

That sort of epiphany has been happening a lot lately in metropolitan areas around the world, as people come to terms with both the dramatic increase in urbanized areas and the corresponding loss of wildlife. The portion of the planet characterized as urban is on track to triple from 2000 to 2030—that is, we are already almost halfway there. Meanwhile, 17 percent of the 800 or so North American bird species are in decline, and all 20 species on the Audubon Society’s list of "common birds in decline" have lost at least half their population since 1970. 

 

View the full article on Yale Environment 360: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/urban_nature_how_to_foster_biodiversity_in_worlds_cities/2725/

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