January 2021 Chapter Meeting Announcements

Highlights from the January Chapter Meeting

The Announcements

View the full set of January announcements by clicking here.  Please note the changes to Dues Payment and change to Groups.io for email. With so much going on, only announcement highlights were presented at the chapter meeting. More opportunities and contacts, websites, and other details are available in the announcements.

A COVID-19 reminder: Except for limited individual and household volunteer service, NTMN face to face activities are suspended until further notice.  Details here.

What About the Awards Banquet? A Valentine to NTMN!

Annual awards and milestones achieved in 2020 will be celebrated at the February 3rd Chapter Meeting. This gives us a chance to wrap up activity from the entire 2020 year (and not cut the tallies off November 15 to meet the deadline of a December meeting). Please log your hours by January 15 so they can be counted for the February meeting.

Highlights of the meeting

Thank you to those who took time away from the very disturbing events in our capital to participate in our meeting this month. Especially for our guests, I hope you felt welcome at NTMN.

The Dynamics of Urban Ecosystems

Urban Wildlife Biologist Rachel Richter, with Texas Parks and Wildlife, led us through an interesting discussion of urban ecosystems function and change. She began with the scope of urbanization in Texas: 85% of Texans now live in urbanized areas. Paralleling the state’s rapid population growth is a rapidly increasing urban footprint. That growing footprint puts more pressure on native flora and fauna as habitat shrinks and becomes more fragmented. Rachel gave several specific examples of managing urban areas in ways that benefit wildlife. A bright pattern here is that riparian zones, less desirable to developers, often become parks. These provide critical connections in the habitat patchwork. The Tierra Verde Golf Course in Arlington, designed with native species in mind, is the first in Texas certified as an Audubon Signature Sanctuary. Perhaps the largest urban bottomland hardwood forest in the country, the Great Trinity Forest provides some 6,000 acres of prime habitat and provides wildlife corridors linking major area watersheds. The adaptation of wildlife to urban development, “synurbanization,” was shown in generalists’ populations increasing and specialists declining.

Rachel explained how moving along the urbanization gradient affects the entire food web. A wide range of factors, from invasive species, removal of top predators, and heat islands, to altered soil structure, water quality, and supplemental feeding, help drive these changes. Rachel closed with some practical advice about our own interactions with urban ecosystems. She covered the enormous impact of domestic and feral cats on songbirds. She encouraged planting native species to increase useful habitat and food sources. She also discussed the often-overlooked smaller steps, like keeping lids on trash, as the cumulative effects are significant. And she reminded us of important progress taking place, like the recently opened Hardberger Park land bridge in San Antonio.

Further information: For an overview of Great Trinity Forest concerns, this MIT study provides broad perspective. For a more philosophical discussion of urban ecosystems: The Nature of Cities essays. Rachel has made a copy of her presentation available here.

Recording: As soon as it is available, video of this presentation will be posted here.

Happy New Year, NTMN! Thank you for all you do for our communities.

Scott Hudson
President
North Texas Master Naturalist

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