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RichmondJake: I would disagree with your assertion as I don't neccesarily see "urban" and "biodiversity" as mutually exclusive. Some cities have great parks and want to record their biodivesity to promote usage of their parks for a variety of purposes such as education, bird watching, etc. What's the point of having a park without knowing what exactly is in it? (This is what I think of when the term "open space" is used for a park- it's such a sterile term for a place that can be so vibrant and exciting.) And once you know what exactly is in it, then isn't it possible to plan for enhancements that induce greater biodiversity? Park planning can be very important for urban communities as they often lack the resources to travel and enjoy campgrounds, state parks, and national parks. Similarly, a park with great biodiversity can be viewed as a tool to increase tourism into a city. Look at what great zoos can do: the first that comes to mind is the San Diego Zoo. People love animals. People love plants. People love the outdoors. Why deprive an urban community to plan for such an important asset? A zoo does not have to be the only showcase for biodiversity, and a careful urban park biodiversity plan can be a unique and useful substitute for a costly zoo. (And is probably more humane, depending on your views toward non-human species.)
Ecoplan: I apologize for addressing your issue of biodiversity plans only in the context of urban parks. Since the management of biodiversity can be such a tricky subject when you consider the number of private landowners who may be affected by such a plan, perhaps a starting point would be with parks. Once you and your community become comfortable with the biodiversity plan, and perhaps once the community sees the value of biodiversity, then it might be easier to address biodiversity on private lands. Here in Ann Arbor, MI, I am aware of a City Ornithologist who studies, monitors, and records bird activity in the city. She is Dea Armstrong and you can reach her at ddarm@NOSPAMumichDOTedu. I don't know her personally, but we took an ornithology course together some years ago, so I don't think she'll mind the inquiry. She often posts to a list-serve about birding in Ann Arbor, which is at:
Then we agree to disagree, Bean. My impression biodiversity consists of the natural habitat of any given geographic. The operative term being 'natural'. Granted, the San Diego zoo is a wonderful opportunity to view flora and fauna from the various habitats around the world, but it hardly provides a complete understanding of the natural habitat in that section of Southern California. As for urban parks, I've found few (in my limited experiences), that designed around indigenous species. Exotic trees surrounded by Kentucky bluegrass lawns does not constitute a healthy biodiverse natural habitat.
RichmondJake: Yeah, I understand where you're coming from. I would agree, a lawn around some trees does not suggest a healthy, thriving, biodiverse habitat. However, for the sake of argument, wouldn't the purpose of a biodiversity plan be to document the lack of biodiversity so that strategies for improving and increasing biodiversity would then become a community goal? Just think, a community recognizes they have practically no biodiversity, so in order to find out if biodiversity can indeed be improved upon, they engage in a biodiversity planning process. To me, that sounds logical, and in fact, sounds rather innovative. Without sounding too much like a cheerleader, I think it is appropriate for any community to document and then plan for biodiversity.
Other than a lack of financial feasibility, what other barriers may impact the initiation of a biodiversity planning process? Perhaps there may be general disagreements among lay individuals on what exactly biodiversity means, but from a scientific standpoint, biodiversity can be measured quantitatively by documenting two specific parameters: 1) How many species exist in a given geographic area, and 2) For each of those species, how many individuals, on average, occur in this geographic area over a stated period of time, such as a season or year? These two measures are called the Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index. Regardless of the quality of the habitat, whether it be the lush old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest or exotic trees surrounded by Kentucky bluegrass in Del Boca Vista, FL, the point is that biodiversity can be measured.
Perhaps another limitation to measuring biodiversity is the extent to which types of organisms it is that should and can be measured. Do you measure all the species in only certain animal classes such as birds (Aves), reptiles (Reptilia), amphibians (Lissamphibia), and insects (Insecta)? Or do you just quantify aquatic and woody plants? Should agricultural crops be included as well? Or maybe you should reject the Phylum-Class-Order approach and just measure all the species in specific habitats. With this approach, a community would measure the biodiversity in wetland habitats, or maybe they wanted just forest ecosystems, or perhaps both. I don't see this as a limitation, though, since you can quite easily decide at the outset of the planning process which scale the biodiversity plan addresses, i.e. whether it plans for only the species in both Class Aves and Class Insetca, or if it is just a "Wetlands Biodiversity Plan."
In summary, other that financial reasons, I see no reason why a community cannot plan for biodiversity. To initiate a successful planning process, I would make darn good sure that the community knew why it's doing a biodiversity plan, what exactly its going to measure (Class Aves? Wetland habitats? All public lands? The possible future site of a waste company's landfill?), and how that measure is going to be applied to meet community goals. A biodiversity plan could end up being controversial, as the term "biodiversity" may trigger thoughts of property rights battles that have emerged out of the applications of the regulations contained within the Endangered Species Act.
I am intrigued by the ideas here, why not catalog what lives in those empty open spaces that all of suburbia seeks to floodlight from their back yards.
There are incredible pockets of biological diversity found in and around suburbanizing areas in every state. It seems to me that biological surveys of typesof tree cover, soils, amphibians birds mammals, topography streams wetlands could and should be mapped.
Of course only those communities already participating in a regional GIS program might be ahead of the game.And for the volunteer, stipend paid, township trustees where I live, their tools are very limited for land preservation.
And almost every city no matter what size has neighborhoods with mature trees, shrubs and native gardens that are providing important food and cover for many beneficial species of birds and insects.
The landowner says what's in it for me?
Reduce my taxes if I nuture biodiversity? recycle? give blood? carpool? check on shut ins? Looks like I need to start another thread...
I find it very interesting... the ability of nature to endure what we do to them and their habitats. It is not very uncommon for an animal which (we think) does not belong in an urban area to make its way to one. I remember an incident not too long ago where a coyote found its way to downtown Chicago - just across the street from the Art Institute - by walking down one of the suburban rail lines. I guess nobody told him or her that suburbia meant to push him in the other direction. Upon reaching Michigan Ave, he became very frightened, and he found a parked car nearby and stayed there until animal control coaxed him out. I felt guilty.
Falcons living on skyscrapers… little deer living on Belle Isle in Detroit…Canaries in Chicago...wild dogs roaming abondoned buildings... Well, probably not the intent of an urban biodiversity plan.
As I was sitting in my backyard last week in the middle of town I was watching a squirrel cruise through the top of a Red Oak Tree, just then a Red Tailed Hawk came from nowhere and snatched him up. Dinner. As stated previously in this thread it is hard to define a sizable region to create a true biodiversity plan. If you take a cubic foot of soil, a soil scientist will find plenty of diversity where a wildlife biologist will be a bit disappointed.
The information that I was originally looking for seems to be much harder to find than I had anticipated. I'm trying to find examples of projects similar to what we are attempting at my office - to develop a comprehensive approach to promoting a healthy functioning ecosystem within an increasingly urban context. We've developed GIS modelling tools whereby, along with an extensive data collection and monitoring campaign, we're able to estimate the impact of small changes on the larger ecosystem and so can now direct our restoration and preservation efforts more effectively. With these tools, we've predicted that to maintain the current quality of existing habitat within a rapidly urbanizing area, we'll not only need to preserve ALL existing natural areas, but to EXPAND them. So now that the hard work is almost done, I'm looking for innovative ideas on policy, bylaws and implementation tools that can be brought forward to ensure long term viability of the natural heritage system that is part of every urban system. Are there OPs out there that propose to expand natural areas within already urbanized areas through extensive restoration efforts? I'm having trouble finding any in North America, but maybe there are some overseas?
We recently completed an ecological conditions report for our 36 sq. mile community. The ecological management recommendations are in-depth, and there is a sound scientific approach taken. It was followed up with a Conservation Plan which identifies lands to be acquired, and lands to remain in private hands with management objectives. It focuses on plant communities, not wildlife, but I think its in line with your topic.