The Birds and the Trees in the Big City

The birds are chirping, the trees are blowing in the wind, and horns are blaring as busy drivers make their way through the bustling city.  You won’t find a city without a trace of nature in its veins.  Cities are becoming more green every day, and it’s important to understand why this matters and how biodiversity and humans are in a giant mutually-beneficial relationship.

fumin_ecology_park_in_afternoon_20141022aIn Ecology in, of, and for the City, Pickett et. al address levels of urban ecosystem research.  Originally, after WWII, researchers thought small.  They worked to address ecology in the city, looking at individual patches and small populations.  It wasn’t until the 1990s when researchers began to realize that populations in urban areas were continuing to grow and that their research needed to address social issues, as well.  The ecology of the city looked at social and built components.  Recently, the final paradigm shift has been into research for the city.  This works to advance the goals of urban sustainability, connecting the social-ecological system.  A variety of professionals contribute to this new face of ecology, including engineers, social scientists, economists, planners, etc.  Not only does this allow for collaboration between interdisciplinary fields, but it brings about connection between a slew of cities worldwide, all working to address urban issues while still appreciating nature and using it to help develop solutions.  

3041736_db4e25dfAs the field of ecology advanced, the paradigms differed by disciplinary focus, theory & research approaches, modeling techniques, name of classifications, and how they could be applied to the concerns of sustainability.  With the sustainability movement being at the forefront of urban areas, the possibilities for research are expansive.  “Urban ecology is dedicated to developing harmony with urban planning and nature.” It allows for implementing policies to encourage sustainable development and land use.

Why is urban ecology so important, you ask?

Various urban issues are being faced in every city around the world, whether that be involving stormwater overflow, transportation emissions, or contaminants.  Each city is a giant system.  Using the ecology for paradigm, these issues can be addressed using social-ecological methods.  Many solutions to these problems can be addressed using resources we find in our own backyards.  For example, macrofauna can tell us a lot about the health of our soils.  Healthy soils absorb carbon, slowly improving our enormous CO2 problem.  Biodiversity is extremely important for ecosystem health, meaning that even cities rely on organisms to provide benefits.

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You can get involved!!

It’s not just up to the scientists or the economists, or even the bugs, to solve these big environmental problems.  You can get involved right now to start making a difference.  Citizen Science programs exist in nearly every city, giving individuals and families an opportunity to learn about their city and help solve local issues.  Attend events. Go to environmental art exhibits. Play in your backyard. Appreciate the ecosystem around you.  You may live in a city, but once you open your eyes to nature, you’ll realize that it’s there and there’s so much work to be done.

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