For many ecologists, fieldwork involves majestic mountains or rushing rivers or large tracts of wilderness. At the very least, it means exploring natural areas that aren’t defined by human development.
But for Carly Ziter, a research site can be a lot closer to home. In fact, it can be right out your back door.
In a study published March 6 in the journal Ecosystem Applications, Ziter, a graduate student in integrative biology professor Monica Turner’s lab at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, finds that urban green spaces like backyards, city parks and golf courses contribute substantially to the ecological fabric of our cities — and the wider landscape — and they need to be added to the data ecologists currently use when exploring big questions about our natural world.
“Often when we’re doing regional studies of ecosystem services, or the ways that nature benefits us, we ignore the cities,” Ziter says. “We treat the city as this kind of gray box; quite literally on maps it’s often a gray box. And what we’ve discovered here is that … we need to be thinking about the city as part of the landscape.”
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Image via Lauren Jensen, University of Wisconsin