Finding Balance for Wildlife in Urban Areas

Studying how animals adapt to human habitats also yields information for conservation efforts and helps to soften the environmental impact of parks, housing, roads and waterways. These types of construction can even enhance biodiversity and encourage species to colonize urban areas by creating ecological corridors and networks to circumvent obstacles, thereby providing favorable habitats.
People Impacted
$ 48B
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

Urban settings have different selective pressures from those on wild habitats: they impose close proximity to humans as well as to rivals, predators and prey, but can also reduce threats and create benign conditions including ready access to food, and insulation or shelter from seasonal variations and adverse weather conditions(NCBI). We are punishing wildlife with sprawl from one end of the country to the other. It shows how fast we’re losing the one-of-a-kind landscapes and critical ecosystems that support a vast array of wildlife – and ultimately, our own kind (NWF).

Symptoms and Causes

Humanity's Negative Impact on Ecosystems

There is no doubt that human civilization has had a negative impact on biodiversity, particularly since the industrial revolution. Overfishing and hunting, the destruction of habitats through agriculture and urban sprawl, the use of pesticides and herbicides, and the release of other toxic compounds into the environment have all taken their toll, particularly on vertebrates (NCBI).


Urban populations interact with their environment. Urban people change their environment through their consumption of food, energy, water, and land. And in turn, the polluted urban environment affects the health and quality of life of the human and wildlife population sharing space (PRB).

Learning Curve for Humans Sharing Space with Wildlife

Parks, green roofs, and urban trees all welcome animals, but people have to learn how to share their living space. 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 (Nat Geo).

the impact
Negative Effects

Increase in City Life

More than 50 percent of the human population now lives in cities and that number is expected to rise to 66 percent by 2050. With our world’s rapidly growing urban areas, our collective ecological footprint increases and threatens the health and biodiversity of surrounding ecosystems (KQED). 

Restricted Wildlife Movement

Wildlife move both daily and seasonally to survive. However, the habitats animals rely on continue to be fragmented by housing, roads, fences, energy facilities, and other man-made barriers. As a result, animals are struggling more and more to reach food, water, shelter, and breeding sites (NWF).

Many of the Attracted Species are Already Threatened

Although many cities are encouraging sharing spaces with wildlife, many of the species are already endangered or in need of protection. Dedicating specific spaces where natural human interaction is limited would be more beneficial for the species.

Quality of Life

The urban environment is an important factor in determining the quality of life in urban areas and the impact of the urban area on the broader environment. Some urban environmental problems include inadequate water and sanitation, lack of rubbish disposal, and industrial pollution, all of which are a threat to wildlife sharing the space (PRB).

Economic Impact

As communities transition to sustainable practices, the wildlife they share the space with should be a priority in budgeting for the future. Costs of not only protecting, but encouraging wildlife in shared spaces will be crucial to the survival of many species.

Addressing the “Extinction Crisis” in American cities can be a challenge. While the federal government has the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (and other natural resource focused agencies) and states have State Wildlife Agencies with State Wildlife Action Plans, there is no equivalent at the local level. Most city or county sustainability plans focus primarily on energy or water conservation efforts. Park and Recreation departments play an important role in conservation, but face competing priorities (i.e. – ball fields, swimming pools, playgrounds, etc.). Most cities do not plan for or allocate their budgets to help wildlife (NWF).

Success Metrics
  • Building wildlife corridors

  • Creating and preserving city green space

  • Making our built environments safe for animals

  • Educating the general public on how to interact with wildlife, even in areas they aren't 'supposed' to be.

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • Cities

  • Environmental Protection Agency

  • City Dwellers

  • Environmentalists

Ideas Description

Smart investment in habitat connectivity projects will help connect protected landscapes, such as the National Park System and National Wildlife Refuge System. Identifying prioritized corridors and key pinch points will improve connectivity that will benefit all species, from carnivores like the Florida panther to insects like the monarch butterfly (NWF).

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