North America has millions of utility markers. This biologist sees millions of birdhouses.

North America has millions of utility markers. This biologist sees millions of birdhouses.

Russell Mclendon | Mother Nature Network

Wild animals around the world are running low on real estate. Even in places without lots of people, ecosystems are being altered en masse to make space for human priorities like farmland, gas fields, highways and pipelines.

These modified habitats may be weaker, but many still host a surprising amount of wildlife. And despite the urgency of preserving big, pristine wilderness for animals that need it, conservationists are also looking for ways to help more species thrive in places claimed by people. As Florida wildlife biologist Steve Barlow argues, these places could support richer biodiversity — along with its many benefits — if our infrastructure drew a little more inspiration from the wilderness it replaced.

It’s sort of like the idea of universal design, but even more universal.

And Barlow has a plan to demonstrate what he means. He invented a birdhouse that can easily be added to utility marker poles, those ubiquitous signposts that mark the right-of-way for pipelines, cables and other underground utilities. Called Nesting Post, it’s meant to restore lost habitat for certain cavity-nesting birds, and on a massive scale thanks to the posts’ prevalence across North America. It wouldn’t interfere with the markers’ original purpose, he notes, so it should be a win for everyone…(Read the full story)

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