Urban sprawl might not be as harmful to wildlife as previously thought. When biologists compared the diversity of bird populations in natural forests, tree plantations and “exurban” (urban sprawl) areas in Tennessee, they found that tree plantations had substantially less bird population diversity than did native forests and exurban areas, and in some cases, exurban areas had even MORE diversity than native forests.

Researcher David Haskell says, “These findings suggest that urban sprawl is not all bad for wildlife. This turns conventional wisdom about wildlife conservation on its head.”

According to Haskell, scientists have been concerned for years about the loss of biodiversity resulting from worldwide deforestation. To help solve this problem, governments and private organizations have implemented conservation programs that discourage sprawl and promote tree plantations to replace deforested areas. Tree plantations have nearly doubled in acreage in the US over the last 15 years to nearly 45 million acres, due in large part to government policies encouraging such land use.

But the problem with these plantations is that they usually contain only one kind of tree?something which DOES NOT encourage biodiversity, while the typical suburban yard contains many different types of trees and bushes, which encourage various kinds of birds and insects.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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