Urban ecology part four: Saving species
Urban ecology part four: Saving species
The planet is home to countless creatures. Humans are just one small species in the grand scheme of things. Yet we have the audacity to think we can dictate how the world will transform for everyone else. Our intervention has disrupted many a species and led to the extinction of far too many.
In this penultimate addition to the Urban Ecology series, it’s time to think about how our cities affect the natural wildlife in the UK. So far, it doesn’t seem to be good news.
Episode 6: Cities
If you’re like me, you’ll have binge-watched the second series of Planet Earth. Who can resist a David Attenborough voice over?
One of my favourite episodes of Planet Earth II was the sixth: Cities. It did an excellent job of showing how our homes, cities, and lifestyles aren’t separate from nature, despite our continued efforts to distance ourselves from it.
The episode showed the plethora of wildlife that have adapted to city life, just like us. Langurs roam the rooftops of Jodhpur in India, catfish live in Albi, France where they swallow pigeons whole, leopards hunt domesticated animals in the night of Mumbai, and spotted hyenas call Hamar, Ethiopia their home.
In the UK, we our wildlife might not be as exotic, but they’re no less important. And, unfortunately, many of them are struggling to survive.
Motorways for animals
How do humans stay physically connected? We simply travel by road, rail, or sometimes fly. This keeps our population mobile. We’re able to meet new people, travel for business, and connect.
For animals and plants, staying connected with other members of their species isn’t an easy task. When travelling through our cities, they must endure terrifying loud noises, heat, busy roads, hundreds of people, and navigate through our tall concrete blocks. For many, the journey is too difficult, and they don’t make it.
This leads animals like butterflies, insects, birds, and small mammals to become isolated and struggling to survive with a limited habitat. For example, once familiar visitors to British gardens, the Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterfly are increasingly uncommon because of habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation. 60% of children have never seen a Peacock butterfly. So, what is the solution?
We shall build a motorway for wildlife! It will allow them to stay connected, move, and thrive. Since the start of the 21st century in the UK, green corridors, also known as wildlife corridors, have been growing in popularity as decision-makers realise the benefits they have on native wildlife.
What is a green corridor?
Hedgerows, field margins, wetlands, and woodlands make up green corridors. When they connect, they allow wildlife to travel without enduring the perils of urban life. Blue corridors are the same, but they connect animals through the water, like canals, rivers, lakes, and streams. Green corridors aim to connect pockets of wildlife-rich habitats to support the wildlife within them.
Why do we need to build green corridors?
Everything in nature is connected. Insects, butterflies, and bats pollinate the crops we eat, and animals disperse seeds naturally. Bees pollinate 70 of around 100 crop species, yet they’re declining. If these species disappear, who will pollinate plants? If these animals go extinct, so will their predators, and the animals higher in the food chain will starve. It’s a chain reaction.
We’ll have to pollinate plants manually, hiking up prices. People might find food unaffordable at the very least. In 1997, ecologist Robert Constanza and his team estimated the biosphere’s services were worth almost £26 trillion to the world economy. In comparison, the global economy produced around £14 trillion per year at the time.
It’s clear we should do everything we can to preserve wildlife in the UK. But how can we integrate nature into our cities more effectively? Find out in the final instalment of the Urban Ecology series next time.
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