Keep Indianapolis Beautiful
Ecological Value of Urban Habitat Modification
The emerging field of urban ecology seeks to explore, document and
understand the functioning of ecosystems in intimate association
with humans and the built environment. To date, most ecological
studies have been conducted in natural lands. The degree to
which theories based on these studies will apply in urban
environments is not known. Cities have different disturbance
regimes, altered resource availability, distinct soils and
biogeochemistry, and a higher proportion of introduced species,
distinguishing urban habitats from more natural sites.
Urbanization creates habitat loss directly through conversion
during development. It also degrades habitat incrementally
through time via fragmentation and isolation of remnants.
Despite these challenges, urban green spaces can be important
refuges for native biodiversity. Significantly, now that more
than half of the world's people live in cities, it is in just these
places that most people's contact with nature will occur.
Our objective is to document changes in plant and animal species
presence and abundance associated with two urban habitat conversion
projects in Indianapolis: 1) the I-70 native plant installations
and 2) park and gardens in the St. Clair Place neighborhood.
Both of these projects, sponsored by Keep Indianapolis
Beautiful (KIB) (www.kibi.org) and the Eli
Lilly Global Day of Service, resulted in habitat modification that,
along with the goal of beautification, sought to increase presence
of desirable plants and animals to increase biodiversity in the
city. During 2010 and 2011, in cooperation with KIB, we gathered
baseline data on the ecological condition, as indicated by the
plants and animals present, of a subset of these sites using the
methods detailed below. With this grant we will look for
changes in habitat quality as indicated by site usage and species
presence during 2012. We hypothesize that these projects have
created habitat that will increase species diversity and numbers of
desirable native flora and fauna over time as the native plantings
establish. Using our data, we will be able to quantify
document starting conditions and monitor the changes in species
composition through time.