Urbanization & threats to wildlife
Urbanization has many consequences, some of which are obvious while others may be cryptic and less obvious. Less obvious consequences frequently require scientific investigation to discover and understand, and we must equally consider their impact on our native wildlife populations. Consequences of urbanization can include:
- Habitat loss and fragmentation.
- The potential for reduced genetic health associated with inbreeding in wildlife populations living in fragmented habitat areas.
- Exposure to poisons such as pesticides that we use around our homes or in commercial areas.
- Increased risk of exposure to disease carried by domestic animals that can impact wildlife.
Urban development destroys suitable habitat for wildlife, reducing available habitat to sustain wildlife populations and fragmenting available habitat. Smaller habitat size can mean fewer individuals which can have genetic effects if inbreeding occurs. Domestic pets can be sources of disease for wildlife. Humans also use poisons around their homes which affects wildlife Roads can be barriers to movement for animals as well as significant sources of mortality. Sometimes when roads are significant barriers to movement, this can lead to genetic effects within populations separated by roads. With urban development comes the loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation. Fragmentation of habitat by roads and other development may create barriers to movement and gene flow. With reduced gene flow between populations, genetic effects may occur, including the possibility of inbreeding within populations. Roads are frequently a source of mortality for urban wildlife, including urban carnivores. The increasing urban interface may also be a source for human-introduced toxicants (ie., anticoagulant rat poisons) into surrounding wildlife habitat. Further, with humans frequently come domestic animals, which may also be reservoirs for diseases that can negatively impact wildlife populations.
There are many things we can do to alleviate the stress of human development on wildlife populations. A great thing to do is educate yourself about what animals live near you. Be aware of their presence and how we may affect them. We are neighbors to local wildlife. Obey leash laws in parks that require you to keep your dogs on leash. And be aware that domestic cats roaming free outside have detrimental effects on our native wildlife. They can be a source of disease for native wildlife and they kill our native birds, lizards, and small mammals. Finally, don't use rat poisons. There are no safe rat poisons that do not have potential secondary poisoning of native wildlife. There are many other things people can do such as support local land conservancy groups and research teams and promote broader public education.