Humans are part of nature, but the changes we make to the landscape can have a significant impact on the species around us. Max Lambert, a research biologist at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, primarily studies amphibians and reptiles and their ability to survive in urban areas. Lambert’s research also examines how social inequality affects urban biodiversity.
“I interpret urban very broadly, meaning any type of urban development, it could be big cities, it could be low-density neighborhoods that are away from metropolitan areas,” Lambert said.
Urbanization is not one thing, but a variable mixture of industrial, commercial, residential and park areas. Some animals are able to navigate these areas, while other species disappear as human development encroaches on their habitat. While “greenspace” has been shown to benefit human mental health, Lambert argued that not all greenspace is created equal.
“What is green? This could just be a bunch of soccer fields, or it could be the recreation of a city forest. You know, both are good, they give you a chance to relax and see green things, but it’s the number of species that are in that green environment that plays a big role in improving human well-being.” said Lambert.
A lack of suitable habitat for animals can also reflect the injustice in dealing with human urban populations.
“I think we’ve, we’ve realized that a lot of the places that we think aren’t good for nature are also places that have downsized communities that are severely impacted by air pollution, water pollution, a shortage of green space, a lack of access to their own food, they are what we call food deserts where there are very few grocery stores and they are heavily littered with police areas. So unless you take care of equity and justice in a city, you will never be able to see conservation in a city reach its full potential, because these landscapes will always be places that are detrimental to the community of people who live there and need to thrive there as well,” Lambert said.