Several Sides of Synurbization

While we may not realize it, the development of new cities and the maintenance of old cities has a great effect on biota in wild or rural settings. As new cities begin to spring up, humans begin to move into the territory of plants and animals. Deforestation, the construction of roads in natural locations, and other human processes take the habitats of flora and fauna. It is commonly believed that as we destroy animal and plant habitats, all the wildlife living in those areas will die out. However, studies have shown that to be not entirely true.


Although it is safe to assume that some wildlife die out, most plants and animals relocate to other areas. Many animals migrate to environments similar to those of their former homes. On the other hand, a number of different species assimilate to cities. Scientists are beginning to take a greater interest in studying this phenomenon, as it is a prime example of human-environment interaction. This process of plants and animals adapting to urban life is called “synurbization”.


The word “synurbization” is a mash-up of two other words, “synanthropization” and “urbanization”. Synanthropization refers to organisms living jointly with humans. The prefix “syn-” means “together”, such as in “synthetic” or “synchronic”. Anthropization is the changing of natural settings by humans in order to accommodate their needs.


An example of early anthropization practices is part of the Incan civilization. The Incas lived on the western side of South America, near the Andes Mountains. There the ground was not flat enough for farming, as they relied heavily on crops such as potatoes, maize, and quinoa. So, they carved flat terraces out of the mountains, providing flat land for farming. The other word that makes up “synurbization” is urbanization.


Urbanization refers to the development and growth of cities. As previously mentioned, the processes of building and sustaining new cities can have damaging effects on natural environments and organisms that live there. Synurbization, based on these definitions, is when organisms adapt to an urban environment and are able to live in unison with humans. While wildlife inhabiting urban areas can be detrimental, synurbization also produces interesting benefits for all organisms involved.


The synurbization of organisms can have negative effects on all the living things involved - humans, plants, and animals. The most obvious effect of synurbization is that these creatures may become dangerous or pestering to people living in the city. For example, coyotes have been making more appearances in urban parks and frightening people. Recently in New York City, especially on Staten Island, turkeys have been moving into residential areas and nesting in trees. They often make annoying sounds and block traffic, causing residents to call for help from animal removal services. As more and more living things move to cities, they begin to become troublemakers and in turn, put themselves in danger of being moved or killed.


Besides being an irritation to many people, another disadvantage of synurbization is the effect it can have on populations of other plant and animal species which can survive in urban environments naturally. If predators are introduced to cities, they may cause a species to completely disappear from the city. For instance, weeds and other invasive plant species may become adapted to urban areas and compete with native plants for nutrients and water. As a result, these plants will deplete the area of its natural resources, causing the area to become unable to grow other plants. If too many synurbic plants and animals adapt to the city, it may cause other species to die out or be driven away.


However, not all of the effects of synurbization are harmful. Variation between members of the same species is also greatly affected by synurbization. Plants and animals are able to adapt to the environments in which they live over time. As the living conditions change, the species in that habitat gradually obtain new traits to accommodate these changes. Therefore, a species can have greater variety than one that does not experience synurbization. An example, which is becoming increasingly more common, is that of the peregrine falcons.


These birds have adapted to colder environments and different nesting habits. As a result, peregrine falcons are, more than ever, moving to large and colder cities and nesting on top of tall buildings. Also, because of their adaptation to colder climates, some peregrine falcons do not need to migrate before winter and can find food to sustain themselves during the colder months. Moreover, synurbization allows organisms to have longer breeding periods. Due to their adapting to the environment, these organisms can live more sedentarily. Thus, they have more time to mate. Animals living in a more rural area will not be adapted to the harsh weather and will be forced to migrate to warmer areas or hibernate for the winter. As a result, they lose out on time to mate and increase their populations.


The risk of overpopulation and competition between animals living in a single ecosystem also decreases as an outcome of synurbization. Every ecosystem has a set amount of natural resources and living space to sustain the population living there. This amount is called the carrying capacity. If the populace exceeds the carrying capacity, there will not be enough resources to support all of the organisms. Moreover, in an ecosystem, each species fills a niche, or a role, that is specific to the species. Whether it is providing food for other members of the community, like algae in ponds, or regulating insect populations, like some birds, every organism has a job to do to keep the community working.


If organisms do not do their jobs, the community does not function properly. If multiple organisms occupy the same niche in an ecosystem or the population exceeds the carrying capacity, there will be competition between species. In that case, the organisms that are best suited for that ecosystem will overpower those who are not tailored for that environment. Consequently, plants and animals are forced to leave their habitats and occupy another or are dominated by other species.


Synurbization helps lower the chances of competition and overpopulation, as well as lessens the effects of these problems. If organisms are becoming better equipped for urban environments and are moving to them, there is less of a strain on the natural resources in rural areas. The movement of synurbic animals leads to different animals occupying their niches in the communities. As plants move to more urban locations, new plant life with different needs can grow in their place. An example of this is the ongoing transfer of blackbird and magpie populations to cities in Europe. These birds continue to inhabit large European cities, such as Warsaw, Poland and Sofia, Bulgaria, when they had previously mostly inhabited Germany. Not only are these birds taking up a niche that is untouched and residing in an environment free of most predators (except humans, of course), but they are also freeing up space for other birds to occupy the niches they left behind in Germany. As a result, other species can live comfortably in the community.


Besides possibly allowing us to see interesting and beautiful animals and plants we do not normally see in the city, such as foxes, beech martens, or white inside-out flowers, synurbization does not seem to have much an advantage for us humans. Yet, there are disadvantages of synurbization which are hard to ignore. We witness several firsthand effects of synurbization: rodents in train stations, weeds in our gardens, and geese leaving unwanted presents in public parks. However, it is important to realize that most of the annoying effects of synurbization are self-inflicted, consequences of human actions. As humans ravage the homes of plants and animals, they are left with very few choices. They assimilate to urban environments in order to survive and may even experience more assortment among organisms. Therefore, synurbization is very beneficial to plants and animals and as long as humans continue to build large cities, humans, animals and plants will have to learn to exist in harmony.

Written by Isaac Elysee

Works Cited

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