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Animals Like Green Space in Cities-and That's a Problem

By Gabe Bullard

There are many explanations for how and why animals end up in cities, but more and more we are inviting them. The issue is, urbanites aren’t the best hosts.

Now, to protect urban wildlife, it’s our turn to adapt.

Ironically, many of these encounters between humans and animals are caused by our love and appreciation for nature.

As people move to cities—part of a global urbanization trend—local governments are looking for ways to attract youths who would’ve gone to the suburbs 50 years ago.

“When you move to a neighborhood, you want your latte, you want to be close to [public transit], and you want a park,” says Stella Tarnay, an urban planner and co-founder of Biophilic DC, a group that works to make cities better habitats for animals and people.

And it goes beyond maintaining existing parks. To please residents and to combat climate change, cities and civic organizations are planting more trees and turning unused spaces into parks and meadows.

Meanwhile, builders are installing native landscaping and green roofs to keep cool in every sense of the word. All this, combined with efforts to bring cities into compliance with clean water and air laws, has made urban areas much more habitable for animals.

All this wildlife is a benefit for residents. Exposure to nature is great for our busy, technology-addled brains, research shows. “People, in general, like the idea that they have wildlife in their city,” says Tommy Wells, director of D.C.’s Department of Energy and Environment.

But animals don’t follow zoning or park boundaries, and trouble comes when they leave green spaces: Birds swoop into traffic, white-tailed deer (overpopulated in many areas) dash between urban parks, and animals like raccoons and coyotes follow green trails into cities and end up on top of bars. Luckily, there are ways to prevent these incidents without getting rid of the animals entirely, such as creating safer ways for them to navigate the big city.

One way is to design wildlife corridors through cities to limit danger for animals and people, and it's something architects are increasingly thinking about when they plan new green spaces.

Green corridors can be small, like tunnels underneath busy roads instead of cement barriers, which can trap animals. They can also be larger and implemented across cities. A 2006 study out of Switzerland suggests that green roofs with deeper soil beds will grow a variety of plants closer to what would thrive on the ground.

People in cities don't just risk getting hit by a bus, they risk harming delicate ecosystems, hitting deer or birds with their cars, or inviting raccoons into places they shouldn't be.

“As a species, we have to learn how to make space for each other,” Tarnay says. “We need cross-species diplomacy."

In the end, that will determine whether people or animals are the true invasive species.

Read the whole article at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160420-green-cities-design-animals-architecture-urban0/