What cliffs and sidewalk cracks share

Plants in urban ecology

By the gravel-lined side of a road, a wildflower blooms on a blustery November day just before the snow started to fly.

Southern Ontario just got our first dump of snow and even though it’s only added up to a few centimetres (sorry, Buffalo), I’m already feeling nostalgic for green and growing things. So discovering a posting on David Suzuki’s website about eco-connections between urban and natural environments such as pavements and cliff faces, gutters and streams, was a terrific diversion.

He explains how the plants that flourish in sidewalk cracks are very similar to hardy plant species in equally unwelcoming environments like rocky cliffs. Research has shown that “rather than seeing our communities as entirely human-created, unnatural environments, we should recognize that urban spaces are in many ways “structurally and functionally equivalent” to natural ecosystems“.

For all the guerrilla gardeners out there who are muttering “Turncoat!”, hear me out. Mr. Suzuki’s posting inspires a fresh look at our neighbourhoods–seeing urban spaces as ecosystems. Sure, our man-made environments are certainly challenging for the plants and critters trying to survive within them. But accepting that we live within an ecosystem, even when surrounded by roads, malls and housing developments, helps to remind us that nature is still all around us.

Read his posting not only to learn about smart city songbirds that are adjusting their melodies to be heard over ambient city noise but also about how we can help keep our local ecosystems thriving. SPOILER ALERT: Choosing more native plant species for your garden is a good start.

While the roads and buildings around us are thrown into harsh silhouette by snow and nature heads into a deep winter sleep, what better time to re-imagine our world growing even greener come next spring.


3 thoughts on “What cliffs and sidewalk cracks share

  1. Pingback: The niceness of newer unnatural Norway maples | Ministry of the fence: Dispatches from our post-wild world

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