Madhusudan Katti won this year’s ESA Science Café Prize with his lyric contemplation of the wildlife living alongside us in urban spaces, and the necessary participation of cities in the future of biodiversity on planet earth.
UC Davis Professor of Chemistry Jared Shaw went on Capital Public Radio in Sacramento this morning to talk about his Davis Science Café series. Special thanks to Prof. Shaw for making this special Annual Meeting event possible.
Mention wildlife to a city dweller and images of remote nature will probably come to mind – not an empty lot around the corner. Wildlife, after all, should occur in wild places. But cities can support many species and this has implications for conservation efforts.
On a crowded planet, protecting species in their natural habitat is proving increasingly difficult. By 2030, cities are expected to occupy three times as much land as they did in 2010. Remaining natural habitats are often fragments caught in this global web of cities connected by transportation networks. With the number of species going extinct on the rise, we must consider the potential of urban environments to support wildlife.
I am part of a new global network of urban ecologists and naturalists—UrBioNet—compiling biodiversity data to assess how many species manage to survive in cities worldwide. Our recent analysis of plant and bird diversity found that cities have lost an average of one-third of the species native to their region. While this is worrying, it is worth noting that two-thirds of the native species continue to occur in cities that were never designed to support wildlife. In fact at least 20% of the world’s known bird species now occur in urban areas, as do at least 5% of the known plant species.
With more conscious green landscape designs, imagine how many more of the native wildlife we might accommodate in our cities? Wildlife conservation can indeed start at home on our urban planet.