Wild cities: Bringing animal conservation closer to home

The grey-headed flying fox thrives in Australia’s urban environs but not all species adapt so well The grey-headed flying fox thrives in Australia’s urban environs but not all species adapt so well Kate Hofmeister
08 Feb
2016
New findings highlight the impact of cities when it comes to threatened species conservation

Conservation is something normally thought of as taking place far away from urban environments, in distant places where animal species are threatened. But should efforts focus a little closer to home? That’s the suggestion being made by a team of Australian environmental scientists. ‘Our research suggests that actions taken to protect threatened species in cities might return better outcomes than focusing on less disturbed ecosystems,’ says co-lead author Christopher Ives, a Research Fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne, at the time of the study. Ives undertook a survey of 1,643 threatened species within 99 Australian cities. With 30 per cent of threatened species found in cities covering only 0.23 per cent of the land area, urban areas supported a greater number of threatened species than non-urban areas.

‘Many species favour the same environmental conditions that make human settlement attractive, such as productive soils and regular rainfall,’ explains Ives. The study highlights several species (such as the grey headed flying fox) which thrive in urban environments. ‘Some human activities, such as watering gardens and planting trees with abundant fruit and flowers, can make cities sources of supplementary food and water resources,’ Ives says. ‘However, it’s possible that more threatened species are found in cities because urbanisation is a key threatening process.’

Ives also admits that the conclusions may be more applicable to countries that have experienced significant land use change, such as Australia or the USA. ‘The patterns may not be as evident in the UK given its long history of intense human land use, but would likely apply in areas where new urban development is displacing green space,’ he says. ‘In any case, the fact that species of conservation concern can exist in close proximity to people is a finding likely to be applicable to many cities around the world.’

This article was published in the February 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Get the best stories from Geographical delivered straight to your inbox each week.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades later,...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital has a green future, ...
    The Money Trail
    Remittance payments are a fundamental, yet often overlooked, part of the global economy. But the impact on nations receiving the money isn’t just a ...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Wildlife

Aaron Gekoski continues working alongside the Wildlife Rescue Unit

Geophoto

Today, the camera is regarded as an essential smartphone feature.…

Oceans

An innovative new theory hopes to save millions of lives…

Wildlife

Aaron Gekoski continues his personal adventure into the wilds of…

Wildlife

Simple tracking devices have enabled conservationists to amass big data,…

Climate

In a new report, researchers have calculated the global emissions…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Wildlife

The latest episode sees ‘Bertie’ enlisting in wildlife rescue boot…

Energy

Icelandic engineers are attempting to harness the powerful geothermal energy…

Wildlife

New video series tracks the journey of Aaron Gekoski as…

Energy

Newly-developed ‘sustainable rubber’, produced using recycled food waste, could one…

Geophoto

This winter has seen frequent storms and flooding hitting many…

Wildlife

The bison, Poland’s symbol of nature conservation, already faces controversial…

Wildlife

Wolves have arrived at a wildlife park in Devon as…

Climate

An unassuming beach in Denmark is absorbing record-breaking levels of…

Energy

The environmental cost of military activities is significant. Could new…

Wildlife

Latest figures suggest that there are more than twice as…

Tectonics

How does the proposed allocation of ‘Zealandia’ as an independent…

Wildlife

Is extinction forever? While most would assume that yes, extinction…

Geophoto

Wide-angle photography is perhaps the best way to recreate the…