Sustainability Week at BGSU

BGSU professor says key to biodiversity may be in our own backyards

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Fostering biodiversity doesn’t require only setting aside large tracks of natural lands. Fostering wild areas amidst farmland and suburbs could very well help maintain the habitat native species need.  That’s especially true in an area like the Great Black Swamp where agriculture and suburbs encroach on the habitat of turtles, butterflies, bats, and the rest of the natural community. Conservation biologist Karen Root discussed her studies the natural habitat of the Oak Openings region. The professor at Bowling Green State University was the opening act in this week’s sustainability activities on campus. The maps she projected showed the threat to the area’s oak savannah and prairies. While forest has increased in some parts, the white areas representing suburbs moved noticeably south in the last decade. To the south of Oak Openings were large swatches of agricultural land, which with their expanse of single crop planting are in many ways the worst habitat for wildlife. Root has been studying the impact that those changes in land use have had. Those studies, she made clear, require getting your boots muddy. Collecting the data takes a host of students and community volunteers. For students that mean keeping track of road kill on certain stretches of road. They found 292 dead animals, 255 of them mammals. “We think that’s unusually high,” she said. Mammals, Root said, are the prime victims of vehicles, and the area where the Oak Opening Preserve and Maumee State meet is the worst spot. Looking at roads, and the state of vegetation along the edges, though, offers clues on how the death toll could be reduced. Areas with more cover along the side of the road tend to protect animals better. Having areas where animals can travel from one natural area to another is key, since often one area may not have everything a species requires. Root tracked the movements of other species, such as box turtles to see how far they roam, which…