• Some environmental benefits of urbanization include conservation of energy and resources producing a smaller carbon footprint, whereas a challenge of urbanization is controlling growth and development.
Urbanization is the process of growing the population in cities and suburbs. During the past 100 years, much of the historic range of the black-tailed prairie dog has been converted to food production for humans, mostly for cattle pasture and grain fields. Expanding urban areas, especially the rapidly growing Front Range in Colorado, have seen housing and commercial development replace grasslands. Out of an estimated 100 million acres of former black-tailed prairie dog colonies, about 2 percent remains.
Large ungulates are known to preferentially graze on prairie dog colonies because of the more nutritious forage (Whicker and Detling 1988, Miller et al. 2007). This is a counterintuitive phenomenon made logical by the prairie dog’s penchant for clearing shrubs that cattle shun, while stimulating weeds they savor
Widespread soil erosion is largely caused by overgrazing by cattle, and prairie dogs are known to move into the overgrazed grassland patches.
Prairie dogs from urban populations provide a key source of prairie dogs for grassland conservation and restoration. Like giant earthworms, their excavations were loosening and turning, fertilizing and aerating nearly six tons of hard-baked desert soils per acre, more than eight times the combined output of all kangaroo rats, badgers and other burrowing mammals of the grasslands (Stolzenburg, 2004).
As the century begins, natural resources are under increasing pressure, threatening public health and development. Water shortages, soil exhaustion, loss of forests, air and water pollution, and degradation of coastlines afflict many areas. As the world’s population grows, improving living standards without destroying the environment is a global challenge.
Most developed economies currently consume resources much faster than they can regenerate. Most…