Urban Ecology

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There are positives and negatives for natural lands in an urban environment. On the good side, being an island of green in an ocean of development has made Oliver’s Woods what’s called a “migrant trap.” Trap doesn’t sound very nice, but for migrating birds on their way to nesting grounds north of here from wintering grounds in the tropics, it’s a major plus.

Birds migrate at night, and when the sun begins to rise, they look for a place to land where they can fuel up on bugs for the following night’s flight. When they find an oasis that’s dominated by native plants, these long-distance travelers can feast on plenty of native insects. That’s one reason why native plant communities are so paramount.

On the negative side, being in an urban environment means more invasive species trying to dominate the landscape, an ongoing issue that our team works to curtail.

The urban setting also brings unnatural stream patterns. Carmel Creek flows through the property and terminates at the White River here. This means the creek’s entire watershed powers the water as it flows downstream. Carmel Creek’s watershed is almost entirely developed: Its streets, lawns and rooftops absorb little rain, so nearly every raindrop rushes towards the creek. Even a small shower can cause Carmel Creek to get to whitewater conditions, known as a “flashy stream,” increasing erosion issues.