Monitoring Urban Wildlife
Cities can be hostile places for wildlife, with threats coming from habitat destruction, roads and traffic, humans, pets and large numbers of invasive species. However, with proper management, urban areas can house a number of important wildlife species, including carnivores, small mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians.
To assess the biodiversity of the greater Chicagoland area, Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute has established monitoring stations within city parks, forest preserves, golf courses and cemeteries across a four-county area, including downtown Chicago and its suburbs. Motion-triggered cameras are deployed four times per year at more than 100 sites to determine which species are present and to assess spatial and long-term patterns in wildlife communities.
Adding a New Dimension: Arthropods
To date, the motion-triggered cameras have mainly detected medium- to large-sized mammals and some birds. In 2012, researchers began opportunistically sampling arthropods (insects, spiders, etc.) found within the metal security cases that house the motion-triggered cameras. Habitat type, urbanization, tree species and season all may have an effect on which arthropod species occupy these security cases.
To further understanding of arthropod communities, Urban Wildlife Institute researchers have also set up a number of pitfall traps at a subset of biodiversity monitoring project sites. Pitfall traps are a very simple method of collecting ground-wandering arthropods. They consist of a cup recessed into the ground with a cover to prevent rain from filling it. These two sampling methods will help researchers at the Urban Wildlife Institute generate a greater understanding of how land-use and habitat fragmentation can affect arthropod populations.
Valuable Knowledge for Conservation
Knowing where Chicago’s urban wildlife is located will help us to better conserve it. This knowledge will pave the way for future studies on the behavior and ecology of specific urban species, helping stakeholders to better manage wildlife conflict.