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robertogreco : subirdia   1

How urbanisation can be a friend to birds – John M Marzluff – Aeon
"Human sprawl is usually a threat to wildlife, but birds buck the trend. Can we help biodiversity take wing in our suburbs?"



"I am not claiming that suburban sprawl is the answer to our conservation prayers: many species of sensitive and rare birds could never survive in our ’burbs. Even fewer animals that crawl or walk, such as mammals, reptiles and amphibians, manage to live long among us. And, where terrestrial biological diversity is greatest – in the magnificent tropical rainforests – biodiversity is steadily lost with progressive development. But development can enrich local areas by providing what many tolerant species require. Although ensuring global diversity still requires that we leave undisturbed space elsewhere for sensitive species, even then, the political will to create such reserves depends on our experiences with local diversity."



"The response of birds to urbanisation is only just beginning. Humans began living in cities around 5,000 years ago. Today, more than half of all people are urbanites. As exploiters and adapters learn and evolve strategies to survive among us, I expect to see new and stronger co-evolved relationships between people and other city animals. As well as kindling a diverse urban biota, it might even create unforeseen species.

One of the world’s oldest and largest cities illustrates what the future might hold for birds. Crows, which are supremely intelligent and innovative, thrive in most northern cities. In Japan’s capital Tokyo, the jungle crow has developed an array of cultural traditions well-suited to city life. Some crows gather walnuts, but because their shells are too tough to crack open by beak, the crows place them where passing cars can become nutcrackers. Other crows that live in the inner city, where the sticks necessary for nest-building are rare, routinely pilfer clothes hangers that they bend and weave into unique nests.

In A Sand County Almanac (1949), Aldo Leopold, the founding father of wildlife science, noted that, because we view land as a commodity rather than a community to which we belong, we're incapable of loving and respecting it. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in our cities and suburbs, where a small parcel of land and the home built on it is a substantial investment. But the economic value of land need not be incompatible with its ecological value; after all, houses fetch higher prices in tree-filled subdivisions where birds flourish. Letting your lawn go wild (which benefits butterflies) reduces the cost of maintenance. And surrounding metropolitan areas with a healthy, vegetated watershed saves millions of dollars every year in water purification costs.

Even without monetary incentives, experiencing nature right outside the door builds empathy. In East Brunswick, New Jersey, and Palo Alto, California, residents appalled at the roadway slaughter of newts and salamanders, created safe passageways for them in the form of small tunnels or temporary road closures. Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution have stirred up a passion for conservation in Washington, DC, by involving residents in their suburban bird research. The more personal a bird becomes to a human – by tagging it, or simply discovering its nest – the easier it is to make sacrifices on its behalf."



"My enthusiasm for wilderness remains intact, but it’s become part of a broader conservation ethic that places equal value on nearby nature. Wondering and learning from our urban ecosystem teaches us to value nature in its broadest sense. In our cities and backyards, we experience how natural processes pay economic, spiritual and biological dividends. Noticing the responses of animals and plants to our actions provides a glimpse into the creative power of natural selection. As our appreciation for nature and the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape it grows from direct experience, our gardens work symbiotically with wilderness to inform our land ethic and conserve the full range of life."
nature  birds  animals  cities  biodiversity  adaptation  evolution  wildlife  2014  johnmarzluff  crows  corvids  aldoleopold  empathy  urban  urbanism  conservation  suburbs  subirdia  suburbia  ecology 
october 2014 by robertogreco

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