Bridging the Gap: Wildlife Needs Connections in Edmonton’s River Valleys

Just as rivers divide cities, urban wildlife encounter habitats that are cut off or fragmented from human development, such as roads that cross valleys.

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If you find it difficult to cross town when the bridge is broken, consider the wildlife trying to migrate through Edmonton’s canyons. There, human activity can pose obstacles not only to mobility but also to survival.

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Worshipers of the North Saskatchewan River Valley discussed their wildlife connections at Night Out in North Saskatchewan on Wednesday. This event is an annual speaking event sponsored by the Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition (ERVCC) that celebrates the city’s natural crown jewels.

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Winding from the Windermere neighborhood in the city’s southwest to its northeast corner, Edmonton’s Green Ribbon runs through its center housing a variety of animals, said one of the speakers and conservation coordinator for the city of Edmonton. said Catherine Shire. .

“We are in the heart of a city, and it is becoming difficult to balance what we can do for the environment with what we can do for the health of our society,” Shire said.

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Just as rivers divide cities, human developments such as roads through valleys can create fragmented or fragmented habitats for wildlife.

Animals that rely on tree cover, tall grass, and shrubs may find it difficult to navigate in spaces where those features are absent.

Lost and Fragmented Habitats

Event organizer and ERVCC Chair Kristine Kowalchuk cited projects such as Edmonton’s Valley Line LRT and Epcor’s kīsikāw pīsim solar farm as developments that have led to land and habitat loss in the valley.

Citing figures from the Canadian Parks and Nature Conservation Society presented to the Edmonton City Council at a hearing on solar farms, Kowalchuk said that between 2000 and 2015, 6.4 percent of River Valley’s natural areas (75 acres per year) were already covered. I am sure it is lost. .

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Colleen Cassady St. Clair, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta, recalled the replacement of the Walterdale Bridge. This involved cutting an already narrow wildlife corridor or “pinch point” on the south shore of the site and filling it with concrete riprap.

The problem with habitat fragmentation is that it is also one of habitat loss. This occurs when urban development causes the loss or degradation of habitats suitable for wildlife.

“Even if some habitat remains, even if it is very isolated or only part of the habitat, what is shown again and again around the world is the population , especially wildlife within those parcels will be extinct,” St. Clair added. Creatures in such conditions face threats such as extreme weather and inbreeding.

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make connections with wildlife

The city’s history is well over 100 years old, but Edmonton didn’t experience a “paradigm shift” in conservation of natural spaces until 2007, when the council adopted a strategic plan on connecting with nature. Shier says.

“Historically, our strategy has been to protect what we get,” she said. “In fact, we’re becoming more strategic and saying, ‘You know? It’s not just about protecting individual natural areas. It’s about making sure they’re connected.'”

In the years that followed, after the Council adopted the 2010 Municipal Development Plan aimed at protecting natural areas as a network, before ecologists began working with engineers to create wildlife corridors. Shire highlighted the Aurum Wildlife Crossing northeast of Edmonton, which opened in 2019.

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Even though it cuts through a city of about one million people, the valley’s connected ecosystems form important habitats and pathways for the region’s wildlife, St. Clair said.

“Edmonton is unique in having this system of river valleys and canyons that can actually support the movement of animals through the city to stay connected in this larger landscape,” she said. “We should try to protect what remains as best we can.”

But it’s not just large construction projects that pose problems. Daily visitors such as dog walkers and mountain bikers help prevent fragmentation.

Dogs off leash, for example, create a kind of living and unpredictable barrier for wildlife, she says, where dogs tend to avoid untethered areas, and build unauthorized bike paths in canyons. That could lead to more lasting damage, he added.

“When mountain bike riders are carving out these new trails on very steep slopes, the soil is washed away along with the vegetation,” says St. Clair. “It doesn’t just remove cover, it removes the habitat that wildlife needs.”

The Aurum Wildlife Crossing Bridge, which opened in 2019, provides animal passage along Aurum Road, which connects Clover Bar Creek near 17th Street to an existing transportation corridor at Edmonton's Northeast Industrial site.
The Aurum Wildlife Crossing Bridge, which opened in 2019, provides animal passage along Clover Bar Creek and Aurum Road near 17th Street, which connects the existing transportation corridor on Edmonton’s northeast industrial site. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia file


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Bridging the Gap: Wildlife Needs Connections in Edmonton’s River Valleys

Source link Bridging the Gap: Wildlife Needs Connections in Edmonton’s River Valleys

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