Adding Wildlife 'Passengers' to the Urban Commute

FaceMePLS/CC BY 2.0. Nice place for a bird's nest?

Increasing urbanization is making life tough for many birds, beneficial insects, and other species by fragmenting their natural habitats. But what if there was a way to help animals navigate the urban environment -- using the same infrastructure human city-dwellers rely on to get from place to place?

The Rotterdam-based landscape architecture firm Openfabric has proposed a strategy for urban biodiversity that would utilize the Dutch city's robust public-transportation network as a series of "stepping stones" linking together high-value ecological areas for wildlife.

Uniting The City With Nature
"About 60 percent of Dutch flora and fauna is present in urban or semi-urban areas," the firm notes in its concept proposal. "Yet still Dutch policy on nature is based on the controversy of the city versus nature, which divides both into two separate worlds."

© Openfabric. Railways and transit stops could incorporate habitat.

In Openfabric's vision, Rotterdam's 31.4 kilometers of railway and 93.4 kilometers of tram lines will become green corridors to bring butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and crickets from the edge of the city into its center. The entrances, roofs, and ceilings of its 62 metro stops will be adapted as places for bats to roost during the day and take shelter during inclement weather. And bus stops along the city's 38 lines will be equipped with places for birds to forage and nest.

Enhancing Biodiversity With Bus Stops
The strategy, called "Diverse Networks," identifies bus stops in particular "as having great potential to enhance biodiversity: Since they are spread all around the city, they offer wildlife an untouched network of small surfaces." These imagined "hubs for birds" would have at least three different species of plants and shrubs, layered vertically to create optimal conditions for some of the nearly 125 bird species identified in Rotterdam.

© Openfabric. The Rotterdam transit system re-envisioned as a network of green spaces, community facilities, and food and plant production areas.

Though no decision to implement it has yet been made, Openfabric's plan received a positive response from the Rotterdam municipality and transit agency, founder Francesco Garofalo told TreeHugger, describing his firm's work as a "toolbox" for transforming the public-transportation network.

A New Commuter Attraction?
The toolbox doesn't mention how the city might deal with -- or even make energy from! -- the potential poop problem caused by all those new urban bats and birds. But assuming a solution is in the works, introducing a little wildlife into the daily commute could also help get people onto mass transit by giving them something more fun and interesting than the timetable to look at while they wait.

Tags: Bats | Biodiversity | Birds | Cities | Insects | Netherlands | Public Transportation | Urban Life | Urban Planning