By Wendy Langhans
This is a ‘Best of Wendy’ report.
One day, while shopping at our local mall, I stopped for a cup of coffee and spent a few minutes people-watching. As I was watching, it occurred to me that a mall is like a wildlife corridor in many ways. Both are designed for the movement of animals (people) between habitats (stores).
In the wilds, we see signs of animal movements everywhere – tracks in the dirt, a bit of fur caught on a branch, a animal trail winding through the vegetation. In shopping malls, we see – couples holding hands, Grandmas pushing strollers, laughing teenagers hanging outside a frozen yogurt shop,. This week, I want to use the shopping mall metaphor to explain what a wildlife corridor is, what it does, and what makes it well-designed. Next week we’ll talk about one of our local wildlife corridors in the Santa Clarita Valley.
A deer trail at Quiqley Canyon.
What is a wildlife corridor? On the City of Santa Clarita’s Open Space website, wildlife corridors are described “as pathways or habitat linkages that connect discrete areas of natural open space otherwise separated or fragmented by topography, changes in vegetation, and other natural factors in combination with urbanization.” In other words, wildlife corridors are pathways that allow movement between open spaces. It helps if you visualize the layout of a shopping mall – it’s habitats or open spaces (stores) are connected by attractively designed corridors.
A deer’s-eye view of the Liberty Canyon wildlife crossing in the Santa Monica Mountains.
What are the benefits? Again, using a combination of ecological terminology and the metaphor of a shopping mall, wildlife corridors:
1) Maintain biodiversity – keep populations of different species in balance. Much like you have department stores and a variety of speciality shops.
2) Promote genetic diversity – avoid the dangers of inbreeding. A woman’s shoe store does not ONLY stock stiletto heels. What if the customer wants Ugg boots?
3) Provide access to larger habitats which provide – escape routes – access to food, water, mates – and new habitat for juveniles. After all, you may want to head over to the food court for a bite to eat. Groups of teenagers are always scoping each other out. And isn’t it quiet and peaceful around the house when the teenagers are at the mall?
What makes it well-designed? Some of the key features are:
1) Meets the needs of the target species. Benches for Grandma to sit on and a children’s play area.
2) As wide as possible. A two-story mall has a two-story, open-air corridor.
3) Provides habitat around the entrance and exits. As an example, compare the parking lot at the Westridge Town Center with the parking lot at Trader Joe’s.
4) Minimizes human impact (light, noise). Imagine sitting at the food court and seeing a mouse run under your table. The tables would be turned, both metaphorically and literally. Would you still want to eat there?
Animals have been moving around on this earth for at least 565 million years. Makes me wonder what kinds of fossils a shopping mall will leave behind. Petrified coffee grounds, perhaps?
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Wednesday mornings, February 15, 22 & 29.
Saturday, February 18, 8-10 AM. Wild birds of February. With our local deciduous trees bare, not is a great time to view exposed nests and the homes of our feathered friends. Beginners are welcome on this easy walk. Bring binoculars. Meet at Towsley Canyon’s front parking lot. For a map and directions, click here.
Sunday, February 25, 10 AM – 12 PM. The Earliest Wildflowers. Wildflowers already? Let’s look at some early season wildflowers. For a map and directions, click here.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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