San Diego is not only beautiful, it’s one of the most biologically-rich places in the continental United States. Sadly, the persistent threat of climate change and human development threatens our county and its environmental resources every day.
Habitat destruction doesn’t just harm our animals; it harms our people, our communities, and our way of life.
That’s why we work diligently to prevent habitat destruction in San Diego. But we can’t do it alone. Below are a few ways we can work together to make the biggest impact:
Raise awareness about vulnerable habitats
Some habitats are more fragile than others, but all are home to biologically diverse ecosystems. When we encounter these habitats while spending time outdoors, it’s important to take precautions to ensure negative impacts are minimized.
One such resource you may encounter is an ephemeral vernal pool — small, fragile pockets of habitat that are often overlooked. These seasonal pools are dry for the majority of the year, but fill to become flourishing wetlands in times of heavy precipitation. Because fish generally can’t survive in these temporary resources, the pools quickly become havens for plants and insects of all types. Several endangered and threatened species, such as the San Diego fairy shrimp and San Diego Mesa Mint, thrive here.
Vernal pools are a staple of the area, but while they once covered over 200 square miles, encroaching development has wiped out all but 10% of them.
As part of a city-wide conservation plan, San Diego now works to balance the complex environmental permitting process with the need to preserve and restore these vital natural pools. This has led to a multi-organization effort to preserve seeds found in pools, restore existing pools, and ensure that these areas are protected from destructive urbanization like land development and agriculture.
Stay fire-safe every day of the year
It’s no secret that wildfires pose an enormous threat to California residents. Many of us have seen firsthand how fires can wreak havoc on our wildlife, homes and community.
While wildfires do occur naturally, over 80% of them are man-made in origin. When these fires blaze out of control, the once thriving ecosystem must now restart — quite literally — from the ground up. Animals that survive the initial fire face drought, famine, and excessive predation.
We can keep our local habitats safe from these wildfires by staying fire-safe, and not just during the dry season. You can help by:
- Never starting campfires outside of sanctioned areas.
- Avoiding the use of equipment that may unsafely ignite (like pyrotechnics), and have the appropriate fire extinguisher on hand whenever unavoidable ignition may happen.
- Fire-hardening your home.
- Practicing vehicle safety.
- Maintaining equipment.
If anyone in your party ever ignores fire-safe protocols, call them out on it. We need to come together to keep our communities — and our local habitats — safe from reckless behavior.
Demand alternatives to sprawl development
The power of supply and demand can help prevent habitat destruction before it starts. Urban development doesn’t need to be a dirty word; in fact, if done right, our cities could thrive as eco-friendly communities.
Sprawl development, however, continues to threaten our local habitats. This style of development uses land inefficiently and encroaches into greenbelts that our wildlife desperately need. The houses get bigger, the plots get wider, and our natural habitats become increasingly cramped and fragmented.
This is a hard thing to reverse, but we do have options.
We can start by promoting smart urban growth and revitalizing higher populated areas to be more climate-friendly. Vocalize your desire and support for environmentally-friendly projects to your legislators. You can always start small: roof gardens, green stormwater measures, robust public transportation systems, bike lanes, and trails all add up in the long run.
Prevention As The Best Offense
Our local natural resources are under an unprecedented amount of strain. Human development, destructive fires, and the compounding effects of climate change all contribute to this heartbreaking degradation of vital habitats.
The problem is huge, but not impossible. When we stand up for our habitat, we stand up for ourselves. Want to get involved? Join us!