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6.2 Effects of Urbanization

Urbanization has resulted in the loss of forest habitat and fragmentation of forested landscapes. These habitat changes have had the greatest detrimental impacts to specialized forest wildlife species with narrow habitat requirements. Habitat generalists have been better able to adjust to changes brought about by urbanization. Based on the current trends of urbanization across the South, it is likely that forested habitats will continue to be permanently altered and the amount of available forest habitat will decrease in some areas. Increasing urbanization changes the species diversity, overall abundance, and, more importantly, shifts the species composition of forest wildlife. Some forest wildlife species are especially sensitive to fragmentation, forest edges, and human disturbance. Some species disappear from forest areas even with light levels of urban intrusion. Other species have lost the kind of early successional or quality-disturbed habitats that they require.

For species with area sensitivities, those that require forest interior, those that require specialized habitats, and those intolerant of human disturbance, special management considerations will be needed as urbanization increases in areas of the South. Some species will likely require forest conservation areas with thousands of acres of contiguous habitat to be successfully conserved. Protection may be needed to limit roads and human disturbance in these areas. Barring the feasibility of this conservation approach, finding several adjoining larger tracts or areas connected by corridors may be the next best alternative. To conserve forest wildlife species dependent on early successional habitats, forestry management strategies should be formulated to provide a constant availability of these habitats and provide connective corridors for low-vagility species.

With these considerations in mind, urban wildlife habitats will remain important for some wildlife species as suitable forest habitats decline in some urbanizing areas of the South. Urban wildlife preserves should be planned with the realization that size, habitat composition, connectivity, forest dynamics (management needs), and human perceptions of the preserve will ultimately affect the variety and composition of the species conserved there. Innovative designs in small conservation areas may be needed to avoid creating "ecological traps" for ground-nesting birds.

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content: Ken Graham
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created: 21-NOV-2001