Conservation Ecology assesses the impacts of our urban planning and design as it defines our way of life and relates to the biological diversity, our surrounding areas and the greater region of our community. The aim is to create a continuity of land use; plus a stable equilibrium (homeostasis) of improved waterbodies; nutrient cycle; food web; and basics like clean water and air.
Participants consider the use of land within neighborhoods, districts and outlying areas that are comprehensive of urban to rural issues; including a particular community, its greater region, as well as its surrounding open spaces; therein, improving a community’s way of life and orientation.
Stakeholders in the area of conservation ecology typically include laypersons such as independent nature lovers; fish and wildlife enthusiasts; hikers and outdoor adventurers; environmental activists, and so on. In terms of learned disciplines and professions, it includes anthropologists, atmospheric scientists, ecologists, geographers, geologists, geophysicists, hydrologists. A diverse mix of private ecological conservation organizations. Within government, there includes appointed parks and recreation commissions, as well as staff and appointed employees.
Without the full backing of the government, ecologists have limited power on behalf of the public to protect and conserve endangered environments, nor to offer purchase from property owners (who have their own rights).
THE STRATEGY: PLANNING & TASKING
Conservations can start by independent participants at the city and county level, often times working at large with local groups and moving towards state and federal acknowledgment. Conservationists…
- Identify areas in need of ecological conservation, as impacted by a use of land, water body and the overall nutrient cycle and food web. Examples include:
- Land use: parks, trails, and open spaces; blight properties;
- Waterbodies: creeks, rivers, lakes, reservoir, as well as connections to bay, sea and oceans;
- Nutrient cycle and food web: fish, wildlife, vegetation
- Fundamentals like clean water and air
- Make initial considerations of intrinsic value and ecological reclamation
- Estimate the amount of initial clean-up, planning, maintenance to the conservation area
- Undertake or assist with the longtime care, ecological restoration and overall expense and resources that such projects need.
- Campaign within government for legislation to restore and conserve areas.
THE STRATEGY: OBJECTIVES & PRIORITIES
Thes first step is often with the identification of blighted environments and other places that are in need of clean-up, restoration, and (ultimately) protected conservation. Neighborhood activists and groups can organize area clean-ups around properties, if not seek permission of cities and counties to organize projects that make use of volunteers to help clean-up public areas, including trails, parks,riparians zones of creeks and rivers, etc.
In areas that are in need of mitigation, conservationists can cooperate with city parks and recreation departments, public commissions, and elected officials. Since many of our natural resources cross city borders, larger projects can often entail inter-city and county coordination, with additional assistance from local, county and even federal offices, as well as owners of private property.
As projects become more comprehensive and time oriented, conservationists may advise and recommend restoration projects to government and private bodies, advocating for budget allocations, labor intensive care and resources, as well as other planning initiatives that recover and create overall conservation.
A designated conservation area can be formed if there is comprehensive ecological restoration and mitigation underway, change of land use, requirements for green space are made in proportion to urban population, etc. Natural resources designated at a specific area can include lands, waterbodies, and habitats that are particular and sustainable with regards to fish, wildlife, and vegetation. Such natural resources can be within local, state or federal public domains, if not that of the private.
Urban ecologies can be just as diverse as undeveloped places, since each neighborhood or district of a city, county or region is zoned for various land use, such as for various residential, commercial and industrial development. Some areas may well indeed seem more complex, such as by natural or planned landscape, mixed use, intensive infrastructure, newer versus older architecture and so on; whereas, each has its particular carbon footprint. Realizing the transition within or between districts can be significant to conservation planning.
Furthermore, some areas designated for restoration or conservation may well be within various boundaries, from public to private, thereby determining their inclusion or level of mitigation in the reclamation or conservation process. Nevertheless, nature itself is not bound by political boundaries; whereas, the carbon footprint of any area or development affects another, regardless of their official status. Conservationists must keep in mind those areas that are subject to public ordinances, versus those that are not included or under private control; thereby creating a comprehensive conservation initiative that is all-inclusive of a region’s integrity and character.
Indeed, a conservation area itself can have various levels of protection, no matter its size or other aspects. In other words, it can be a local, regional, state or national protectorate; as well as owned and controlled by private entities that are local, remote or part of a larger organization and bureaucracy.
In some cases, absentee business owners are not readily available to manage the properties, or they may not be reasonably mindful of conditions because they do not live in the community in which the property is situated. Money and other resources that could be spent locally to maintain a property may be re-circulated outside of the community, neglecting the concern and regarding it as a mere investment. Securing the cooperation of absentee owners can often be more trialing, such as when trying to fit the concern in the larger scenario.
Likewise, unbalanced planning and design in our urban communities can have a significant impact, such as with regards to residential versus commercial use, public versus private and so on. These areas can be more difficult to mitigate if the lifestyles of its inhabitants, residential or work related, are mostly transient and not particularly identifying and concerned with a particular area, if only in with limited capacity and regards. In some cases, such areas are overlooked, neglecting to assign them for proper care within the overall conservation process, often times leaving large gaps in the larger vision.
Regional and state applications are the next levels considered by environmentalists beyond city and county inventories of natural resources. For example, points of interest can be designated as county parks and trails, or as regional open spaces.
At the regional level, there are public agencies such as the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), as well as non-profits, such as the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) and The Bay Area Open Space Council.
Statewide, there’s typically departments and divisions, such as California’s Department of Conservation; California Conservation Corps; Fish and Wildlife; Parks and Recreation; California Biodiversity Council; California Department of Water Resources (DWR); Boating and Waterways; California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA); Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle); Coastal Commission; etc.
Nationally, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) including Rural Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); as well as the Department of the Interior, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
The relationship between ecological conservation and heritage preservation is well established in the United States, as recognized by and entrusted to the United States Department of Interior, under the auspices of the National Park Service (NPS). Its additional role is in making the resources available and accessible for public use and enjoyment.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is the only major, federal land agency that manages numerous forests and grasslands, other than the Department of Interior. The 100th anniversary of the National Park Service is recognized as of 25 August 2016.
The elongated process represents a holistic context by which conservations is established. This vision includes local and county parks to regional open spaces; as well as state and federal forests, parks and waterbodies. These contextual relationships provide the worldview by which ecological conservationists “Think globally, act locally“.
Often times, ecological conservationists work in concert with heritage preservationists, urban planners, agricultural and foodways advocates, as well as many groups to improve, green and preserve a way of life.
VALUES & CONCEPTS
✮ Urban ecology and its anthropogenic contributions are emphasized relatively to a more general or broad ecological context; because nearly 81 percent of the population of the United States lives in urban areas as of 2010. That’s a population increase of 12.1 percent as of 2010, up from 79 percent, ten years prior from the U.S. census of the year 2000. For comparison, according to the United Nations, “Today, 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66 percent by 2050.”
✮ Urban ecology studies life and its surroundings in the context of an urban environment, as demonstrated by population density; buildings and land use; paved surfaces; and other urban factors.
✮ Ecology is our foremost resource. In our busy lives, it’s parks, recreation, and green space that give us refuge and comfort; but, beyond improving our social lives, the ecology is as much an asset to the general economy.
- The continuity of trails and regional parks is beneficial to hiking, bicycling and other outdoor fitness, aside from alternate routes of transportation.
- The ecology is essential to natural resource distribution, such as by shared waterways and the migration of fish and wildlife.
- Open spaces and inter-community connection is the big picture connection that provides for regional splendor, as well as our most intrinsic frame of reference as community dwellers.
- As modern beings, we are no longer living in a pristine and natural world; but, as we find ourselves affected by urban and industrial blight, it is in our interest to make these environments brighter and more livable, thereby improving our health and wellness.
- Our creeks, rivers, lakes, and bays are vital life sources that must be regularly mitigated, such as from the effects of drought and pollutants.
- Chemical elements and compounds must be controlled and mitigated since many of them are not retractable from the ecology, once introduced. They can become fixed and impart a lasting legacy. For example, mercury and other toxic waste harm fish and birds, which are part of the greater food chain and the organizational web of life.
✮ Ecological conservation is foremost prevention from toxic pollution; resource exploitation; soil erosion; water waste; habitat ruination; environmental neglect; decay; urban blight and littering; property abandonment; arson (and wildfire); urban encroachment and sprawl; etc.
✮ Response and adaption to modernization and social change are essential practices; therein conserving our community’s natural grandeur; its broader sense of place; plus, its biodiversity and ecology. Both the pace and way of life can be ever changing; but, recognizing our ecology and the relational patterns of human, as well as that of fish and wildlife, gives us greater stability and equilibrium. That includes a more profound sense of self, connected foodways, healthy environments, personal wellness, and overall esteem.
Surrounding factors to the urban ecology are often considered, such as building or property; expansion of roads and highways; automobile traffic congestion; carbon footprints; trains and rail lines; airports; population density and so on.
✮ Historic garden conservation is a specialized subtype of sustainable heritage preservation, combining with ecological conservation or restoration, therein relating historical and landmark gardens and designed landscapes to a historical building and its property.
✮ Archeological excavation of a site can reveal more profound significance than what’s typically known; therefore it shall be provided the fidelity to conserve (and preserve) the inviolacy and honor of its environment. This includes its continuity of historic land use, plus its buildings and artifacts. In some cases, this can include the respects of public monuments; forgotten graveyards; foregone battlefields; ancient habitats; native flora, fauna, and subsistence; etc.
✮ Our everyday activity and pathways are continually contributing more ecological pollution and chemical toxicity, such as with industry, construction, agriculture, energy and goods distribution, etc. We are reminded of this with the outcome of non-point source pollution, such as from…
- acid rain or water runoff from pesticide laden fields and properties;
- animal waste, litter, oil and grease from rooftops of buildings;
- sediment and silt from roads, highways, and parking lots;
- discharges from industrial facilities and construction sites.
More than that, runoff causes eutrophication; whereas, an excess of chemicals and nutrients causes a dense growth of plant life and death of fish and animal life from lack of oxygen. In many cases, built-over environments will not allow for natural systems to recycle or turnover, thereby creating smog and “dead zones” that are toxic and deplete of oxygen for birds, fish, wildlife and many other organisms. Ultimately, all this contributes to global warming.
✮ Droughts, floods and landscape design can influence the chemical composition and quality of our water, as much as our rural to urban infrastructure, it’s design and sustainability. We modify waterways to suit our urban needs, such as by building or improving dams, reservoirs, canals, and the diversion of creeks and rivers. In many cases, water can be channeled from distant places; but, in that scenario, it has an effect on either ecology. That is to say, such modification as much impacts the place of origin, as it does the destination.
✮ Design and planning influences the ecological biodiversity. Some life forms respond and adapt better than others within a built, urbanized and modified environment. An intensely urbanized ecology can have a homogenizing effect on species, aside from the habitat itself. Unless roaming corridors are created within and around an urbanized zone, habitats can be separated and species migration can be inhibited. Even then, roaming corridors are still not as effective as natural and open environments, since most fish and wildlife don’t navigate themselves like humans (such as by mindset, need or motivation).
✮ Air quality, including greenhouse gasses, are influenced by natural causes, as much as those that are anthropogenic (i.e., related to humankind). Our atmosphere is affected by the enumeration of cars, trafficking of roadways, industrial development, etc.
✮ Temperatures at urban ecologies and various geographic terrains are affected by built-up environments, such as from the paving of roofs, paths, sidewalks, roads, and bridges; or, the grafting of metal fixtures and construction of building projects.
The U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) describes this as a “heat island“ effect; whereas, urbanized areas can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C), depending on its population and infrastructure. In fact in the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C). So, the size, energy efficiency and footprint of our buildings and its roofing are a critical factor. It depends on factors like population, architectural design and use of non-reflective surfaces; but,
It depends on factors like population, architectural design and use of non-reflective surfaces; but, energy demands (such as from climate controlled buildings) can be costly, as well as emit air pollution. In some cases, it causes heat-relate illness, mortality, as well as water and air conservation issues. Just some of the solutions are to improve our cities with green building, infrastructure, roofing, and surfaces; plus, ensuring the conservation of open spaces (both within and outside urban clusters).
✮ Anthropogenic outlook, considering the impact of human activity and our personal responsibilities, plays a vital role in the care of the environment. We can make choices. We can redesign and improve architecture to be environmentally responsible and efficient. We can modify our use of land surfaces and waterways. We can be more conscious of our horticultural practices, deciding which plants to cultivate and manage. After all, we decide how to garden and landscape the exteriors of our homes, parks, campuses and so on. We learn which species are productive or invasive. Likewise, we must ask what impact these various species have on the greater ecology of organisms, either autotrophic (plants, algae, bacteria) or heterotrophic organisms (animals, insects, fungi).
✮ The supply and demand of land are influential factors within urban ecologies since population increases the scarcity of land, its density of use, as well as the competition of acquisition and values. In any region, we make planning decisions, such as to decide what percentage is used for urban centers, suburban housing, and rural-agricultural productivity. Although the majority of our activities may circumscribe us to a particular area that’s within a region, economic productivity and growth are typically reliant on an urban-rural balance: fluctuating between the agriculture that feeds our population and the urbanization of formerly green spaces to meet land-use and resource requirements.
✮ The urban supply network and its infrastructure are influential factors within urban ecologies since we are constantly meeting demands of the urban population, such as with our daily and hourly work commutes; the shipping, distribution, and trade of retail goods; plus, the operation of our food system. As much as we rely on these networks, they put stress on the greater natural ecology of the city and its connection to the greater region. Those transportation networks create carbon dioxide emissions. With every transaction, we are not only transferring commercial goods, but various biological organisms interact and make a footprint within the ecology. That can include transference of domesticated animals; the built-up encroachment on wildlife habitats; the indirect relocation of invasive species and so on. We are literally and figuratively importing — as much as we are exporting — our human influences on the urban-rural balance.
✮ New urbanism and sustainable paradigms must be embraced and acculturated. The foundations of urban culture are deeply rooted, including its chemistry with the environment; but, we have many options to help return the landscape to a more sustainable and naturalistic urban ecology. Buildings and other infrastructure can be redesigned to merge with the landscape architecture, in turn creating models that reflect the natural systems. Rivers, creeks, lakes and other riparian areas can be restored, so as to further reclamation of their pre-urban condition. It is not simply a matter of course and circumstances are not unchangeable.
We have a responsibility to see that all new buildings and “improvements” are indeed advancing the plan towards sustainable, green development; that is, it’s including LEED certified buildings, Energy Star certified appliances, and zero (or low) emission vehicles (ZEV or LEV).
✮ “Think globally, act locally“ is not just an ecological construct, but one to be applied to all our disciplines and activities: grassroots participation, business, government, education and community stakeholder groups. It is how we grasp the breadth of problems and solutions — authentically. We are challenged as urban dwellers to carry our imagination beyond our immediate ecosystem: the urban center and its suburbs. It’s the patterns of our life and the scale of our imagination that influences our research, public policy, and legislation.
We must acculturate a full understanding and treatment of the world’s environment, engaging active participation in, and sympathy for, the very ecosystems in which we live and sustain ourselves. An ethic of local character is essential to our quality of place, lifestyle, and its vitality.
✮ Ubiety, or sense of place, comes with develops, changes and is relevant to interaction with our environment. So, sustaining the quality of our interactions is relative to understanding the need for place making: creating relationships; developing socio-cultural patterns; sharing memories; and, ultimately, realizing our interdependence with the greater landscape and its flora and fauna.
METHODOLOGY & TOOLS:
Any ecology consists of diverse inhabitants, including human and other living species; whereas, we must question…
- What does the diversity look like in these urban to rural environments today?
- How is this environment changing and how is it impacting that diversity?
We must address the concerns of…
- Animal and plant life, as much as the socio-cultural aspects, in all its urbanity and modernity.
- Air and water quality, its homeostasis; plus, its resulting significance to biodiversity, climate change, geographic microclimates, and long-term sustainability.
Local conservations and advocacy groups are often the first to organize and plan an elongated process that can reach from local to federal and even world contexts.
Neighborhood associations and conservationist groups can supply tremendous resources and education to individuals in their community, including:
- Lists of local flora and fauna (vegetation); fish and wildlife and a network of shared interests.
- Examples and descriptions of conservation projects in your area and their significance
- Lists of waterbodies and lands, including their significance to the local economy and way of life; as well as their public or private designations.
- Connections to a broader network, including leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to conserve America’s diverse natural resources, as well as to restore and revitalize its regional ecologies.
- Education on the restoration and conservation of ecologies, as well as the ability to afford to maintain them. private ownership of historic properties
- Safeguarding the character-defining elements of our ecology, its appreciation of natural resource, as well as its aesthetic value and extended physical life.