Urban wildlife is amazing, and I’m still not entirely sure how it can thrive. While it’s certainly not the largest city, here are some anomalies I spotted in downtown Nashville, TN about a week ago;
I’ll admit I’m kind of proud of these finds and wanted to show them off, but it’s more incredible that they’re able to survive our human wasteland. Opossums require hiding spaces and ambient biomass for food, different insects and fruits that vary on a seasonal basis. Plethodontid salamanders are painfully fragile when it comes to anthropogenic pollutants, soil disturbance, and especially the eradication of natural communities (I shudder a bit to think about what biodiversity has been lost in the Southeast because of this). Land snails have a similar story.
As for farms, maybe a European naturalist can confirm, but in some research I’ve done about Scotland, Norway, and a few other “re-wilding” initiatives state how important it is to preserve habitats that have been modified for long periods of time, containing animals and plants that have adapted to live there. Back in my “neck of the woods,” Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, etc. would have a hard time making their migration successful without latent cornfields in the winter. Cornfields will never adequately replace floodplain savannahs, but they’re pretty integrated into a delicate ecological story now. Eliminating them would be like putting up a birdfeeder after all backyard chickadees become dependent; the results would be pretty bad.
Based on my own experience and opinion, nothing beats a flourishing ecosystem with minimal disturbance (not necessarily lack of humans, but ideally with a complete lack of our moronic, self-destructive processes that have arisen throughout the last few millenia). It’s easier to see wildlife in the city; they have nowhere to hide. But the places that species thrive are in the “wild,” the natural places they call home without intervention; in “real grasslands,” mountains where busy roads don’t slice through their sides, and biodiverse swamps ranging for acres.
I kind of rambled here, but basically I think it boils down to a sense of place (like Wendell Berry writes). If you appreciate where you are, and its unique, ecological beauty as it presents itself, you’ll ultimately get the most fulfilling experience of “nature.”