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Extinction, habitat shrinking spur urban ‘rewilding’

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Detroit — In a busy metropolitan area of ​​4.3 million people, Yale University wildlife biologist Nyeema Harris travels to an isolated bush to study Detroit’s most elusive inhabitants: coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. I stepped in.

Harris and colleagues have installed trail cameras in the wooded lots of 25 city parks over the past five years. They have recorded thousands of images of animals that emerge and roam and forage, mostly at night, revealing a wild side that many locals may not know exist.

“Urban environments expose us to more and more wildlife,” Harris said recently, checking several devices anchored to trees by steel cables near the ground. “As we change their habitat and expand our urban footprint, we will come into more and more contact with them.”

Animal and plant species are going extinct at an alarming rate. Up to 1 million animals at risk of extinction, according to a 2019 United Nations report. Their plight fuels calls to “rewild” places that thrived before being driven out by development, pollution and climate change.

Rewilding generally means restoring a natural system to a degraded site, sometimes with help. It could mean reconnecting or reintroducing predators such as wolves to balance the ecosystem.

This idea may seem best suited to remote areas where nature is free to heal without interference. But even some of the world’s largest urban centers are rewilding as people find mutually beneficial ways to coexist with nature.

The US Forest Service estimates that 6,000 acres (2,428 hectares) of open space are lost every day to urban and suburban expansion. According to the United Nations, by 2050 more than two-thirds of her global population will live in urban areas.

“Climate change is coming and we face an equally important biodiversity crisis,” said Natalie Petrelli, senior scientist at the Zoological Society of London. There’s no better place to do it than the city.”

In its September report, the association noted that large cities such as Singapore are undergoing rewilding. In Singapore, his 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) of the Kallang River transformed from a concrete-lined channel to a winding channel lined with plants, rocks, and more. Surrounded by natural materials and green parks.

According to the report, treating urban rivers like natural water rather than drainage ditches will encourage fish passage and allow adjacent land to absorb floodwaters.

german city Hannover, Frankfurt, Dessau-Rosslau It is designated as a pristine site such as glades, parks, lawns, and urban waterways. Native wildflowers have sprouted and have attracted birds, butterflies, bees and even hedgehogs.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has described the UK as “one of the most depleted countries in the world”. last year announced plans to fund 45 urban renewal projects. Improves the habitat of birds such as stag beetles, water voles, swallows and sparrows.

In the North London Borough of Enfield, Two beavers released in March — 400 years after the species was driven to extinction in Britain — in hopes their dams would prevent flash floods.

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and non-profit Urban Rivers are installing “Floating marshes” on part of the Chicago River They provide breeding grounds for fish, habitat for birds and pollinators, and root systems that purify polluted waters.

Marie Law Adams, an associate professor of architecture at Northeastern University, said urban rewilding cannot and has not attempted to return the landscape to its pre-settlement age.

Instead, it aims to facilitate natural processes that benefit people and wildlife by increasing tree cover to reduce summer heat, store carbon, and accommodate more animals. , install a surface waterway called a bioswale that filters rainwater runoff from the parking lot rather than polluting the stream.

“We need to learn from the mistakes of the mid-20th century: pave everything and design everything with gray infrastructure like dams and pipes,” says Adams.

Detroit’s vast metropolitan area shows how human actions, intentional or not, can facilitate rewilding.

The city’s population, which peaked at 1.8 million in the 1950s, has fallen by more than 60% and hundreds of thousands of homes and other structures have been abandoned. Many were dilapidated, leaving vacant lots occupied by plants and animals. The nonprofit has planted trees, community gardens, and pollinator-friendly shrubs.

Reintroduction of conservation projects Osprey When peregrine falconBald eagles have made a comeback as their ranges have expanded nationwide due to bans on DDT and other pesticides. Pollution control laws and government-funded cleanups have made nearby rivers more hospitable to native plants such as sturgeon, whitefish, beaver and wild celery.

“Detroit is a great example of urban rewilding,” said John Hartig, a lake scientist at the nearby University of Windsor and former director of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. The environment has improved and native species have returned. ”

A 30-minute drive from downtown, the shelter is Consists of 30 parcels totaling 6,200 acres (2,509 hectares), including islands, wetlands and former industrial sites. It’s home to 300 species of birds, making it a stopover for ducks, birds of prey and more on their migrations, says manager Dan Kennedy.

For Harris, a former Yale University biologist at the University of Michigan, Detroit provides a unique backdrop for studying wildlife in an urban environment.

Unlike most large cities, it has a declining population, even though its streets, buildings and other infrastructure are largely intact. And they have diverse habitats. It ranges from large lakes and rivers to neighborhoods, some inhabited, some almost deserted, and some very quiet parks. O’Hare Park.

Her team’s photographic observations have published research into how mammals respond to each other and to people in urban landscapes.

The project connects them with local residents, some of whom are interested in their neighborhood’s coyotes and raccoons, while others fear disease or harm to their pets.

According to Harris, it’s an educational opportunity, about proper garbage disposal, resisting the temptation to feed wildlife, and the value of healthy and diverse ecosystems.

“Before, you had to go to remote places to get in touch with nature,” said Harris, a Philadelphia native who was thrilled as a child to catch the occasional glimpse of a squirrel or deer. “Not now. Like it or not, there will be unwinding. It’s about being able to do it.”

For urbanites who prefer well-manicured lawns and find ecologically rich systems to look unkempt with weeds or need to be used for housing, rewilding can be a tough sell.

But proponents say it’s not just about animals and plants. Studies show that spending time in natural spaces improves people’s physical and mental health.

“Many urban dwellers have lost their tolerance to living with wildlife,” said Petrelli of the Zoological Society of London. It needs people to participate.”

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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