If you haven’t read inspiring action read that first…this will make more sense.

Lesson Context:

Our world is a magnificent and beautiful place. Nature offers numerous resources that help our world thrive and adapt. Altering habitats can diminish the quantity and ability of these resources to flourish. Habitats are altered in many ways, some natural and some caused by humans. One of the common causes of humans altering habitats is urbanization.       

The Phoenix Metropolitan area is one of the fastest growing Urban areas in the country (Chow & Brazel, 2012). Urbanization minimizing the effects of urbanizationalters habitats and in the process strains resources, removes/displaces species and fragments the area (Buczkowski & Richmond, 2012). The Sonoran Desert ecosystem provides many services that are diminished by urbanization: gas regulation, climate regulation, pollination, genetic resources, recreation and cultural (Costanza et al., 1997, p. 119-120). Unfortunately there is not a lot of data on desert ecosystem services; this could be a reason the desert is often undervalued and converted for human use. 

One way that urbanization can alter habitats is through the introduction of invasive species. Invasive species, both plants and animals, can alter habitats by out-competing, displacing, pushing native species to extinction (Mooney & Cleland, 2001), or altering gene pools (Muhlfeld et. al, 2014). Major Sonoran Desert invasive species include Buffelgrass, Fountaingrass, Saltcedar,  Athel tree, Onionweed, Red imported fire ant, Argentine cactus moth (ASDM, n.d.), and sometimes pet species, like feral cats (Rambo, personal communication, August 31, 2016). 

Practical action ideas to help minimize these impacts would be to encourage care and support of native plants and natural areas (Green & BakerGilbert Riparian Preserve provides was to minimize the effects of urbaniztion, 2003; Hanski, 2011). Taking care of or creating areas with native plants will help bird populations (Green & Baker, 2003) as well as pollinators (Rambo, personal communication, August 31, 2016). This effort could also focus on identifying and minimizing invasive species which have been introduced from landscaping choices or released/escaped pets (Rambo, personal communication, August 31, 2016). Local riparian preserves, like the Gilbert Riparian Preserve, a excellent models for helping to minimize the effects of urbanization by fostering native landscapes and fighting invasives. This model can be scaled down to yards and schools by choosing native plants and providing resources for native species thus minimizing competition.  

Lesson Material:

nearpod lesson on how minimize the effects of altering habitats

nearpod version (if you are wondering “what is nearpod?” go here)

google slides version 


Practical Action Step Ideas:

Use/modify the following ideas to inspire action in your students:

  • Monitor/observe/report about local places that preserve/mimic native spaces
    • Variations:
      • Presentations (digital or paper pencil)
      • Collect students’ responses on google My Maps to identify what areas need more.
      • Creating a plan for protecting or enhancing the observed area
      • Measure Biodiversity of the area
      • Photo contests or collages
  • Study and locate invasive species in your school or neighborhood
    • Here is a document from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
    • Similar variations as above can be applied
  • Adopt an area that preserves/mimics native spaces to take care of
  • As a class or school, create an area that preserves/mimics native spaces
  • Research and explore other ways that urbanization alters habitats:
    • Greenhouse gases-Chemistry
    • Urban heat island effect- Chemistry
    • Fragmentation-Biology/Math
    • Energy consumption- Physics

Thank you for visiting, and reading, please comment below and share:

  • Is there more background information you would like?
  • Are there ways the slides can be improved?
  • Can you see yourself using this lesson? In what context or unit would you incorporate it?

References can be found here.

One thought on “Lesson Idea: Reducing the Impact of Humans Altering Habitats

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