Designing Neighborhoods for People and Wildlife

Watch a new animation from ASLA’s “Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes” online exhibition that explains how to transform your property into a real wildlife habitat. Learn how native plants and designed structures provide what nature needs.

Wildlife habitat can be destroyed by development, farms, or mines; or degraded by invasive species, climate change, or pollution so it no longer supports native wildlife. Sprawl has increased the rate of habitat loss. One estimate says U.S. forest land the size of Pennsylvania will be consumed by expanding cities by 2050. But insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals still all need habitat: food, water, cover, and places to raise their young. Unfortunately, with sprawl, native wildlife now has fewer places to call home. (Sources: Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Doug Tallamy, Timber Press, 2009; “Sustaining America’s Trees and Forests,” David J. Nowak, Susan M. Stein, Paula B. Randler, Eric J. Greenfield, Sara J. Comas, Mary A. Carr, and Ralph J. Alig, U.S. Forest Service; and “Habitat Loss,” National Wildlife Federation)

Many natural areas are now too small to sustain native species for long. The long-term survival of many species depends on recreating connections. Birds, turtles and reptiles, frogs and other amphibians, foxes, and other mammals all need safe passage through neighborhoods and places to raise their young within them. Corridors need to be protected where species are already using them. Wider, more continuous corridors work for a greater range of species. A recent study argues that organically-formed corridors are more successful than easements along a street or utility line. (Sources: Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Doug Tallamy, Timber Press, 2009; “Interview with Kristina Hill, Ph.D., Affiliate ASLA,” American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) interview series; and “Designing Wildlife Corridors: Wildlife Need More Complex Travel Plans,” Science Daily, 2008.)

Habitat loss, and the corresponding loss of biodiversity, doesn’t have to continue. Communities can connect their properties into networks of attractive, wildlife-friendly neighborhoods, cities, and regions. Starting with homeowners’ properties, fragmented habitats can be rewoven together, creating neighborhoods that are not only healthier for wildlife but also for people. Many residential landscape architects are helping to stem the losses by creating beautiful neighborhoods that provide habitat for many species. (Sources: Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Doug Tallamy, Timber Press, 2009; “Garden for Wildlife,” National Wildlife Federation; and Audubon At Home, Audubon Society)

Increased biodiversity has its own benefits: These landscapes maintain themselves without fertilizers or water that lawns need. Also, biodiverse residential landscapes are not only beautiful, but help families see the wonder of nature close to home. As scientists are now proving, just being out in nature, seeing plants, and hearing bird song reduces stress and improves mood. (Sources: Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES®). “Research Shows Nature Helps with Stress,” The Dirt blog; “Does Looking at Nature Make People Nicer?,” The Dirt blog; and “The Restorative Effects of Nature in Cities,” The Dirt blog)

4 thoughts on “Designing Neighborhoods for People and Wildlife

  1. Craig Campbell 10/31/2012 / 2:53 pm

    Wildlife in some areas such as Boulder, Colorado can represent more of a menace than a benefit; there are continual confrontations with cougars, bears, bobcats, etc. and attacks on pets as well as some unusual attacks on children by coyotes.

  2. C Haynes 11/01/2012 / 4:22 pm

    Those of us living in urban areas, which increasingly is most of us, need every bit of nature we can find or recreate. Man is not separate from nature; we are very much a part of nature and the actions we take to nurture (or destroy) our ecosystems will have a profound impact on our sustainability. The animation raises many of the benefits of trying to sustain and recreate natural systems and doesn’t even touch on all of the ecosystem services that natural landscapes provide. We all need clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and natural sanctuaries to escape all the asphalt, steel and concrete of urban living. Thanks for raising awareness on the benefits of natural landscapes!

  3. jtpump 11/02/2012 / 8:10 am

    This video is designed to consciously explain very complex subjects like those Richard T.T. Forman writes about often. I kept thinking about the studying I did in school about landscape ecology and how his ideas are translated to rebuild habitat that is lost due to poor planning and development speculation.

  4. David 02/12/2014 / 9:42 pm

    More importantly, the U.S. needs to develop a land use plan so that we don’t overdevelop or use prime farm land and natural habitat for purely human use or monetary profit. We need to have a balance and use land wisely…”they aren’t making any more of it!”

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