Sunday, September 12, 2010

Man-made Habitats for Wildlife

Rock Wren inhabiting a man-made retaining wall in my community
In the current issue of Birder's World magazine is an article by Emily Wortman-Wunder called "The House Effect" (subscription required to view online) discussing how the very presence of a home in an ecosystem changes what species are likely to be found around that home.  I appreciate that she wrote the article without a condemnatory tone directed at mankind and homebuilding.  She simply laid out the facts and observations.

Somewhat relatedly, I've been following a family of Rock Wrens which appear to be inhabiting a beautiful, albeit mammoth, rock retaining wall that we had built along the backs of three lots in the community where I live and once worked.  Unintentionally, this rock wall has become a home for all kinds of critters.  These observations, combined with my recent reading of the aforementioned article, has me pondering the following issue:  Is man's presence in the ecosystem always "bad"?

There are those who insist that the earth would be in a better state had mankind not evolved on it and ruined everything that was in such perfect harmony.  Ironically and impossibly, they claim that they would be happier if humans did not exist.

I propose that mankind is not always a destructive force and that we can invite wildlife to be near us by providing man-made habitats.  Sure it manipulates the natural order of things - and so does feeding wild birds and building nest boxes.  I'll spare you from my long religion-based or philosophical spiel.  Just know that my perspective is based on my firm belief that animals were placed on the earth for our use and enjoyment and to be cared for by us.
Man-made retaining wall at Avimor - backing up three vacant luxury lots - provides new habitat for all kinds of critters, including...
Western Fence Lizard
Gopher Snake in crevice of rock retaining wall
Western Yellow Jackets
...and critters that get eaten by other critters.

So, to answer my own question - Is man's presence in the ecosystem always "bad"? There is no question that mankind's existence has an effect on our surroundings.  My conscience remains at peace knowing that I work to create beauty out of the chaos of the Earth's raw materials and the side effects are what they are.  I feel real joy and happiness when I create or restore a habitat that brings in wildlife.


  1. It is an interesting question- since humans are also living creatures, aren't we still part of the natural order? Granted, we have had an incredible impact on our environment, but is it any different than other animal impacts on ecosystems (e.g. elephants, algae, etc.)? One way or another, life will go on.

    Nice shot of the paper wasp nest.

  2. I like all your photos of the creatures that now live in the rock wall - of course the Rock Wren is the best!

  3. Interesting thought about man's impact and I agree that it is not always negative but is often detrimental. Unfortunately the bad gets more airtime and coloumn inches than the good.

  4. Yes, humanity has changed the earth in both sweeping, ecosystem level ways, and at the local level. But the earth has always been in flux, with species arising and becoming extinct. And even though extinction rates have skyrocketed with us around, I still wouldn't call what we're doing "unnatural". Mind you, I'm not trying to justify our impact; I'm most definitely for conservation. I just don't get those who, like you said, think that all we do is wrong.
    I think it's an important question for us to consider, and I think your outlook is much healthier and "correct" (for lack of a better word) than the doom-and-gloom one.

  5. Interesting take on the Birder's World story; thanks for the thought-provoking post. I, too, prefer the Rock Wren! ;)

  6. Very interesting point of view. I also vote for the Rock Wren photo. :)

  7. Excellent thought provoking post Robert. I agree that we humans have caused much harm to our planet and in turn to its wildlife, including ourselves. I also believe that humans have finally begun to consider the consequences of our actions and may be turning the corner toward solving some of our abuses.

    Everything we do affects our environment and the wildlife around us. I applaud any conservation efforts to restore habitats that have been damaged and also projects that can create a more welcoming habitat for our fellow inhabitants.

    I love the rock wall! Excellent craftsmanship! I think that beautiful Rock Wren likes it too!