Across the world, animals are invading cities and suburbia at a magnitude unlike ever before. The reason is simple: animals are adapting and finding new places to live as their original habitats are destroyed or altered by people. But do not despair.
If you live in a city or suburban area, you can help. Directly below are three unique ways that you can use to join the effort to protect urban wildlife as well as make some positive additions to urban ecosystems at the same time. Some of these ideas you might be familiar with, and others you might not. In any case, spread the word!
1. Apply to Have Your Property or Neighborhood Designated as an Official Urban Wildlife Sanctuary
No outdoor space you own or live in is too small to use if you would like to participate in the Humane Society’s Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program. Even your neighborhood or building can apply collectively. The Humane Society will provide you with a variety of educational materials about how to enhance or rehabilitate your land (or even the balcony of your apartment!) into a place that is more hospitable for urban wildlife. Bird feeders, small butterfly gardens, and a variety of plants can be useful food sources, places to rest, and homes for many species of animals.
As a certified member in the Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program, you will receive among other benefits an eye-catching sign for your yard, building, our neighborhood that advertises and promotes to the world that you are hosting an official urban wildlife sanctuary. Decals for windows are also available. While a sign, educational materials, and participation in a community of like-minded folks committed to protection of urban wildlife might not sound like a big deal, remember that many people are not even aware that animals are now living in cities in such great numbers and need protection!
2. Enhance the Top of Your Home, Apartment, or Office Building By Giving it a “Green Roof”
While greening your roof might be as simple of an action as putting some potted plants up top, believe it or not, a new culture is spreading where people use proven technology and techniques to install sophisticated soil and water draining systems on building tops. One building even has a lake on top! These “green roofs” as they are called can support a wide number of plants species. Plants can be selected for use based on their characteristics to meet needed circumstances, such as regular wind activity.
While making green roofs can produce new habitat for numerous animals such as birds, small rodents, and insects, they can also provide real benefits for the people who live and work underneath. They can reduce heating and cooling costs for homes, provide new garden space for growing fruits, herbs, and vegetables, and also help to relieve pressure on sewer systems by absorbing rainfall. A good article to read if you want more general information about green roofs is the entry in Wikipedia. If you want more specific information, check out www.greenroofs.org. Even if you can’t afford to undertake a major effort to make a green roof, at least consider putting a few larger plants up there, buddy!
3. Become a Citizen Scientist and Help Collect Data about Urban Wildlife
Have you ever wanted to be part of a scientific research project? I’m not talking about that trip you made to the science fair when you were 12 with your home-made volcano– I’m talking about citizen science. As more and more members of the public have become interested, the scientific community has caught on and is now utilizing people like YOU to collect real data to help answer actual research questions. Some of these questions can even involve urban wildlife, who are part of one of the most poorly researched ecosystems: cities.
Examples of programs you might want to participate in that involve urban wildlife include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s numerous citizen science projects to count birds and study their behavior and also a biodiversity monitoring effort for spiders called Spider Webwatch. The Museum of Science in Boston has joined several universities to create a firefly watch program, as their is evidence that fireflies might be disappearing in the U.S. You can set up a study site where you live and collect data for any of these projects, as well as many others. Some great websites for finding information about citizen science projects are Cornell’s Citizen Science Central and also Terrie Miller’s extensive page that is devoted to the subject.
Hopefully one or several of these ways to help protect urban wildlife appeals to you. And wouldn’t it be great if someone made a green roof on top of their home, certified it as an urban wildlife sanctuary, and then used it for scientific research? Maybe it could be you!
If you have more suggestions for other readers about programs, tips, or efforts to help protect urban wildlife, please don’t hesitate to mention them in the comments section. Thanks!
Read More About How Urban Wildlife is Affected By Light Pollution and Green Roofs on the Green Options Network:
- Chicago Suburb Preserves Night Sky with Innovative Light Ordinance
- Cities Need to Offer Incentives for Building Green Roofs
- Landscape Architecture Organization Unveils New Green Roof for Headquarters
Photo Credits: All photos are from Flickr under Creative Commons licenses.
- Fox in Front of Car from Neil Phillips
- Anna’s Hummingbird in San Francisco from Matt Honan
- Green Roof on Chicago’s City Hall from mindfrieze
- Spider on Power Line from hartsbane