CHAPTER 7
CHALLENGES TO BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY IN URBAN AREAS

DENNIS D.MURPHY

Research Programs Director, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California

Jaws, claws, an explosion of spray, and a grizzly emerges from the shallows, a salmon in its grasp. Mixed herds of elk, deer, and pronghorn antelope graze rolling, grassy slopes. A cougar surveys from broken chaparral and woodland above.

A scene from the shores of Yellowstone Lake? Perhaps. But it is also a scene from the shores of San Francisco Bay just 150 years ago. Now only deer and cougar remain, but well away from those shores in mountainous habitats above the sprawling metropolitan Bay Area. It seems that only the relatively recent European settlement of the West has spared those species at all. In wooded patches surrounding Milwaukee, the woodland bison, moose, wolverine, black bear, elk, and lynx have been long extinct. Now just a very few forest specialists, such as the raccoon, chipmunk, and white-footed mouse, survive in the region, and those species are gone from all but the very largest woodland patches (Matthiae and Stearns, 1981). In patches of eastern deciduous forest near Washington, D.C., migrant bird species restricted as breeders to forest interiors also survive in only the largest natural habitat remnants. A number of warbler species there show signs of imminent regional extinction (Whitcomb et al., 1981).

These are merely obvious examples of an accelerating decline in the global diversity of living things. The term biological diversity has been used to describe “the variety of life forms, the ecological roles they perform, and the genetic diversity they contain” (Wilcox, 1984, p. 640). While scientists argue about the relative enormity of tropical deforestation and its impact on biological diversity, the loss of populations, species, and entire ecological communities in human population



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement