The extensive and ongoing human interference with nature has progressed in leaps and bounds across time, and the dwindling spaces allotted to wilderness that remain unspoiled, or in some cases at least still viable, are becoming fewer and farther between. The activities conducted by man have directly and negatively, impacted many species of wildlife, and their habitats, in a variety of ways, sometimes irreversibly. We will review what some these activities are, the resulting effects they have had on habitat, as well as animal life. I: The Evolution of Urban Sprawl What is the modern definition of urban sprawl?
According to Authors Johnson and Klemens, “Sprawl is a dispersed pattern of single use, low density land uses, most evident as developments of large lot, single family homes, office campuses, and strip malls”(1) . When man first settled the colonies in North America, it was a settlement here, a town there, plenty of wilderness remained, vast and unexplored. Although some habitat was lost, and a variety of animals species were displaced, relocated, or as in the case of the buffalo, almost eradicated by man’s activities, it was not the desperate situation we have seen develop in the twenty first century.
It was the early beginnings of urban sprawl though, and as the quaint settlements became larger cities, and population grew, aided along by births, massive immigration, and the inventions of progressively faster and more convenient modes of travel, so too did the competition for natures landscape (1) Johnson Elizabeth Ann. Klemens Michael W. Nature in Fragments.
The Legacy of Sprawl. Edition: illustrated, Published by Columbia University Press, ( 2005) pg. 4. 1 http://www. sprawlcity. org/charts_usda/us_c1.html Per Capita Land Consumption is the amount of land required on average for each resident to satisfy needs for: housing * employment * recreation * commerce* transportation* production * education Railway tracks cut across the landscape, connecting cities and towns. Extensive roads and highways, as well as airline terminals developed. Authors Maser and Silberstein, in their book titled ‘ Land Use for Sustainable development’, state that ” The American West’s human population was only 4.
1 million strong in 1900, about 5. 4% of the 76. 1 million people living in the U. S. In 1999, however, the region had 61. 2 million people, or 22. 4% of the nation’s total population of 272. 7 million” (2) . This massive population growth, was experienced in areas across the United States, as humans relocated, often in search of pristine environments drawn by their beauty. The authors point out that this population redistribution ” Caused the populations of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho to double…
In other words the Pacific Northwest has grown as much in the past 40 years as it did in the first 157 years since Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803″(3) . Quoting results of a five year study conducted by the NRI, National Resources Inventory of nonfederal land uses, commissioned by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, comparing Canadian Sprawl, which mainly involved loss of agricultural farms, with United States sprawl, authors Hillstrom and Hillstrom state that ” Nearly half of all new developments (8 million acres) in 1997 stood on land that had been forest just five years earlier (4).
Can you imagine that, almost 5 million acres in a span of only five years? Where did all of those animals go that lived within that zone? Abrupt and massive human consumption of land resources, such as has been seen in the 21st century are devastating to the essential habitat requirements for wildlife population in the locations involved to survive. The bio diversity of the ecosystem, plants, water sources, all stripped away, replaced with man made structures, the earth covered in concrete and tar dividing lines.
(2) Maser Chris, Silberstein Jane, Land-use Planning for Sustainable Development. Published by CRC Press, 2000, p. 12. (3) Ibid . 12-13. (4) Hillstrom Kevin, Hillstrom Laurie Collier. North America: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues. Edition: illustrated, Published by ABC-CLIO, 2003, p. 17. 2 II: Animal Diaspora Little care or thought was given to wildlife, or the delicate nature of their habitat as Urban Sprawl moved along with the progress of the times.
This is supported by the opinion offered by Authors Emel and Wolch, in their book titled ‘ Animal Geographies: Place, Politics and Identity’, They state that ” The 1980’s cost of sprawl debate made no mention of wildlife habitat, and the adherents to the so called new urbanism and sustainable cities movements of the 1990’s rarely define sustainability in relation to the animals”(5).
Quoting statistics researched, compiled, and available at Smart Growth America.com, Authors Hapke, Goodwin, Pulsipher and Pulsipher state that ” In the United States Urban Sprawl eats up 2 acres a minute- A million acres a year- including 400,000 acres of land that is especially well suited for high quality specialty crops. Urban Sprawl is now an issue in virtually all parts of North America” (6). Quoting Vitousek (1997) and Marzluff and Hamel (2001), authors Johnson and Klemens explain that the destruction of animal habitat occurs because ” Humans alter the earth’s natural landscape in three main ways: Through agriculture, natural resource extraction, and urban and rural settlement” (7) .
There is immediate habitat loss as an area is developed, as noted almost one million acres per year are consumed. As humans take over and develop, the wildlife is displaced, and deprived of the habitat because it has been converted for use, and is no longer suitable to sustain life. Pollution, and the introduction of non indigenous invasive plant species enter the habitat as well, after humans move in to an area. (5) Emel Jody, Wolch Jennifer.
Animal Geographies: Place, Politics, and Identity in the Nature-culture Borderlands, Edition: illustrated, Published by Verso, 1998, p. 132. (6) Hapke Holly M, Goodwin Conrad Mac, Pulsipher Lydia Mihelic, Pulsipher Alex. World Regional Geography: Global Patterns, Local Lives. Edition: 3, illustrated, Published by Macmillan, 2005. p. 81. (7) Johnson Elizabeth Ann. Klemens Michael W. Nature in Fragments: The Legacy of Sprawl. Edition: illustrated, Published by Columbia University Press, 2005. p. 19. 3 Many researchers agree with author John Kistler that “ Habitat loss is the single most important factor in the destruction of wild species”(8).
Imagine developers go in with big bulldozers, and dump trucks, and destroy the natural landscape without a thought to the population of animals that will be displaced. Without concerns about rare plant and animal species that may be at risk of extinction. It used to be as man moved in, the animals would move out, to nearby untouched areas with sufficient forage and water to survive. Johnson and Klemens point out that today ” However, as sprawl converts more land to development, there are few or no adjacent undeveloped lands to meet these needs”(9).
Now a drive along highways that pass close to any major development sites that are currently under construction, will reveal the fate of many of the dislocated inhabitants. Dead deer, coyotes, fox, racoons, hawks, and a multitude of other species are strewn along the roadside daily.
Quoting Clevenger and (2001) and Forman (2003), in a paper prepared by professor Michael Starr, and students at Southern Illinois University, attempting to compile data on road kill occurrences states that ” It is undoubtedly true that the number of road-killed animals has been increasing through the years… until the last decade, very few scientific studies had been conducted to assess this assumption”(10). Based on data compiled by reported accidents with cars, and quoting Forman (2003), The SIUE paper stated that “ It has been conservatively estimated that 1 million deer alone are killed each year on the nation’s roads”(11). These numbers are reported road kills involving car damage, the numbers of smaller species no doubt are astronomical, if a number could be assigned.