urban wildlife In a Warming Climate
Human-driven climate change could worsen the effects of urbanization on native wildlife, suggests new research based on analyses of data recorded by 725 trail cameras set up in and around 20 North America cities, including Utah’s urban areas along the Wasatch Front.
The main finding was that urbanization’s negative effects on wildlife are tougher on larger-bodied animals and are worse in the less vegetated cities in drier regions, such as Phoenix and Salt Lake City, according to University of Utah wildlife biologist Austin Green, one of the study’s many coauthors.
“Those cities that don’t have as much rainfall have higher average temperatures, the effects that they had on wildlife were greater than in cooler and wetter cities,” Green says.
These findings are based on thousands of photos of wild animals, namely 37 species of native mammals that live in or near cities, ranging from squirrels to black bears. The images were recorded by motion-triggered camera traps operating in the summer of 2019 in places used for outdoor recreation within cities and up to two kilometers beyond the urbanized boundary. To ensure privacy, images of people were automatically deleted by the program that uploaded the photos, according to Green who is aa postdoctoral fellow in the College of Sciences' Science Research Initiative.
Led by Arizona State University biologist Jeffrey Haight, the study published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Haight and collaborators from around the country analyzed data from 725 camera traps to assess the composition of native mammal communities and the relative occupancy of each species. In partnership with the Urban Wildlife Information Network, the team covered Salt Lake City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Atlanta and Austin and Edmonton in Canada and 13 other cities in the course of some 20,000 camera days.