Rivers through towns and cities are often bordered by strips of vegetation (riparian vegetation), as such areas are unsuitable for building on due to unstable substrates and flood hazard. These riparian zones are, however, a vastly under-utilised resource, and have the potential to provide some real neighbourhood gems. While urban riparian vegetation can provide oases for a range of wildlife, there is huge room for improvement. Such vegetation typically suffers from heavy infestations of exotic weeds, and while there certainly exceptions, exotic vegetation generally supports exotic arthropod and bird communities leading to further degradation of the conservation potential (a topic I touched on in a previous post, Globe trotting birds).
So here's my vision for such riparian strips. Worldwide there is an increasing groundswell in conservation towards community led initiatives. Riparian vegetation not only along urban rivers, but also other features such as railways, is ideally suited to such community led projects. The land has little commercial or development value, and is immediately accessible to locals of all ages. Despite the weed infestations, the vegetation is often mature and as such contains the structural diversity needed to support a rich bird community, and allow movement of the birds through the landscape to access localised food resources. The inclusion of shared paths for cyclists and pedestrians can extend these benefits from the avian inhabitats to the human, resulting in options for cheap, healthy, and immediately available recreational opportunities. All in all a win-win situation promoting healthy lifestyles, healthy communities, and of course, healthy birds.
So remember my ongoing message throughout all my posts: getting out into the wilderness is great, but don't forget the wildlife viewing opportunities right under your noses! Check back soon and hopefully I'll have a few tall tales and photographs from the Canadian wilderness.
Until next time, Southern Bird Geek out.