Lawless foraging and garbage pail skunks

A northern dusky salamander, found in Manhattan. © Damon Winter/The New York Times

A medley of recent news offerings on urban ecology:

A story from Chicago’s WBBM fleshes out the city’s spike in skunk population. The author writes that the combination of habitat destruction and recent flooding (which forces them out of their burrows) have led to more and more skunks seeking the urban cornucopia and shelter found in alleyway trash cans.

Two July articles from the New York Times describe other curiosities and realities of city life. The first is about prohibiting foraging in the city’s parks. Maria Hernandez, the director of horticulture for the Central Park Conservancy, says that “If people decide that they want to make their salads out of our plants, then we’re not going to have any chipmunks.” On the contrary, when speaking of Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspinatum), Leda Meredith, the author of “The Locavore’s Handbook,” suggests that “You’re almost doing the ecosystem in the park a favor by harvesting” it, as plants such as knotweed are invasive (in this case noxious), and choke out the rest of the landscape.

The second New York Times article is about two scientists studying urban evolution in NYC. Excerpt:

White-footed mice, stranded on isolated urban islands, are evolving to adapt to urban stress. Fish in the Hudson have evolved to cope with poisons in the water. Native ants find refuge in the median strips on Broadway. And more familiar urban organisms, like bedbugs, rats and bacteria, also mutate and change in response to the pressures of the metropolis. In short, the process of evolution is responding to New York and other cities the way it has responded to countless environmental changes over the past few billion years. Life adapts.

Japanese Knotweed

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