Urban sprawl, the outward growth of a city as new roads, housing estates, housing estates and business districts are built, occurs rapidly and represents near-permanent changes in the environment.
“A major environmental consequence of growing cities is the loss of biodiversity,” said Harris, who is working on a doctorate in animal and poultry science at USask’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources.
Biodiversity and biodiversity hotspots are extremely important for many reasons, including general human health and well-being, as well as environmental health and sustainability, she said.
“However, biodiversity loss is now occurring at a faster rate than at any time since the last historic extinction event which occurred millions of years ago, and we are currently in a global crisis. of biodiversity, because every year more and more species are going extinct,” Harris said.
Her research goal is to determine what species live in Saskatoon and how they use the city in a context of near-constant urban development and change.
Harris placed motion-activated cameras at various locations in Saskatoon, which captured 21,000 photos of approximately 10,000 wildlife sightings from September to December 2021.
The study is the first of its kind in Saskatoon to provide a large-scale, year-round platform for monitoring urban wildlife. The data collected will be used to create an urban wildlife database for Saskatoon that can be used as a basis for examining trends and patterns in wildlife occurrence over time.
The first batch of photos identified 18 species, including black bears, porcupines, long-tailed weasels, moose and beavers. Harris said the most common species appearing within Saskatoon city limits are white-tailed hares, red foxes, mule deer and coyotes.
“My preliminary analyzes show how vital urban habitat connectivity and wildlife corridors – areas of land that allow an animal to move from one disconnected patch to another – are vital for wildlife biodiversity, sites the least connected showing very low levels of biodiversity,” says Harris.
“Furthermore, most wildlife species have evolved to behave primarily nocturnally as a coexistence adaptation for living in densely populated urban areas.”
Harris said another interesting adaptation she’s observed in urban settings is “human shielding,” a phenomenon that refers to prey remaining in areas of human activity due to a reduced risk of encountering a species. predatory.
His project will continue to collect data until the end of 2023, but Harris hopes the monitoring platform will continue to observe Saskatoon’s urban wildlife for decades to come. His project is overseen by USask Associate Professor Dr. Ryan Brook (PhD).
“I come from a small northern community, The Pas, Manitoba, where I was raised to value and protect our natural resources and what they offer us,” Harris said.
“Most people, myself included before starting this project, are really unaware of how many species we share the city with. So it’s been incredibly eye-opening and humbling at times, to not only be able to experience this other world, but also share it with others.
The study was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and numerous partner organizations including USask, City of Saskatoon, Meewasin Valley Authority, Wild About Saskatoon, Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo , the Wanuskewin Heritage Park and the Nature Society of Saskatoon.
This article was first published as part of the 2022 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the USask Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.