When the Industrial Revolution occurred, cities became the hotspot for innovation. Thousands of people flocked to cities from rural areas to find work, making cities convenient for everything else, like schools, grocery stores, hospitals, and banks. The dependence on physical proximity has only furthered since then, and cities have undoubtedly expanded.
Throughout the world, cities and other urban areas provide housing for about half of the global population. That means that in those centralized, smaller areas, just as many people live, work, play and travel as those who live in spaced-out rural regions. With the projected population estimated to be at ten billion by 2050, the migration to cities will only continue.
Humans have always been in charge of the landscape, and unfortunately, that has led to challenges for wildlife. As more people migrate to urban areas, the need for more housing, stores, hospitals and schools will rise, which means cities will either have to expand upward or outward.
Even now, cities expand outward, which pushes out wildlife or causes wildlife to urbanize. There are consequences to this, which is why there is a demand for building smart cities with wildlife in mind.
What Are Smart Cities?
Smart cities use technology and data to keep everything connected. They often collect data through things like video cameras and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. The goal overall is to improve operational efficiency and allow governments to offer better service and citizen welfare. Additionally, it aims to promote economic growth.
Besides the data collection, smart cities also focus on environmental initiatives and sustainability. The use of smart technology and a decrease in fossil fuel usage can better sustain the town. Even though smart cities do their best to be environmentally friendly, they need to consider the wildlife that could be in danger in the environment around them.
The Dangers of Cities for Wildlife
Some animals have been able to adapt to developing cities. Species evolve to adapt to their habitat, which is why there are rabbits, squirrels, opossums and other animals living right in the city limits. Additionally, they have access to other food sources and often have less competition in cities than their natural habitats.
Still, not all animals have the characteristics of city-dwelling animals and find it challenging to thrive in an urban environment. Cities pose many dangers for wildlife, especially if the cities are working in conjunction with the surrounding environment. Below are some examples of how nature is affected by urbanization:
- Bird collisions: When cities grow, they utilize a lot of glass for skyscraper windows. While glass looks nice, it poses a challenge for birds, which cannot see reflective glass. Therefore, birds may die or have an injury when they collide with windows.
- Animal fatalities by transportation: Transportation networks are responsible for so many animal fatalities. Animals trying to cross a busy road are often hit by moving vehicles.
- Home invasions by animals: The closer people get to natural habitats, the closer the wildlife will get to them. In urban areas, animals tend to find their way into homes through various entry points. The resident may react by trying to kill the animal or harm it.
- Less access to food: As cities expand, it leaves fewer resources for animals. Populations of species cannot survive on less food or water than needed and migrate or die because of limited accessibility.
This is why, as city developers transform a city into a smart city, they need to keep wildlife in mind. It’s not truly a smart city if they aren’t accommodating for every aspect of the environment.
Developing Smart Cities for People and Wildlife
Fortunately, there are ways that city developers and planners can develop a smart city with wildlife in mind. Humans, the concrete jungle and animals can live harmoniously in an urban area with a cautious and thorough design.
The first step in building smart cities with wildlife in mind is to understand the features of the urban landscape that are causing problems in the first place. Again, these are things like bustling highways, reflective glass and a limited number of green spaces.
Urban conservation doesn’t have to be large-scale. A few trees in a metropolitan area can help native wildlife thrive. For example, older trees in city parks provide nesting areas and food opportunities for small mammals and birds. By adding trees to a cityscape, it allows wildlife to survive, even in an ever-changing environment.
Additionally, developers can implement crossing bridges. These allow larger wildlife to navigate high-traffic roadways safely. For example, in Arizona, wildlife bridges saved 90% of a migrating elk population. Imagine how many more animals wildlife crossings would save and ensure efficient traffic flow.
The Future of Wildlife-Friendly Smart Cities
Urban conservation in cities presents an opportunity for sustainability and harmony between humans and wildlife. As the world grows, the integration of nature and cities will expand. Clear sustainable goals are necessary for this to work.
Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co.