60-Second Earth

Cities Befriend Select Plants and Animals

As more people move to cities, careful planning could mean a happy home for both humans and a substantial amount of wildlife. David Biello reports

The concrete jungle is no tropical rainforest. Replacing trees with buildings means a loss of more than 90 percent of bird species. But a new survey suggests megalopolises aren't quite the homogenous ecosystems you might think.
Yes, meadow grass and pigeons can now be found from Nairobi to New York. But so can hundreds of other bird species, most specific to their locale and some even once endangered. Like the peregrine falcons that have become so popular in Gotham they even have their own Webcam.

That's according to a new survey of cities and wildlife in 36 countries published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. [Myla F. J. Aronson et al., A global analysis of the impacts of urbanization on bird and plant diversity reveals key anthropogenic drivers]

Cities aren't just for the birds. Thousands of plant species thrive in cities worldwide, especially in green spaces. Some ecologists even call that the Central Park Effect, because of the surprising density of plants and animals found in that patch. Street trees matter too, especially in a city like Singapore that hosts the greatest number of endangered bird and plant species.
And species can be brought back with a little careful planning, like those aforementioned falcons. That means it's in our power to make cities not only a great place for people to live, but a home for wildlife, too.

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast]

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