The urban Bioblitz on the Plateau-Mont-Royal is an initiative of the Sierra Youth Coalition and is part of a campaign on urban sustainability focusing on youth (of less than 35 years old). A Bioblitz is a one-day full inventory of all the biodiversity in a specific area, usually a natural park, carried out, for a large part, by volunteers. This sort of activity, which was first introduced in the United States in 1996, has two objectives: first to gather scientific data about species composition in the particular area, and second to engage citizens in local nature conservation activities, thus bringing them closer to nature. In our case, the Bioblitz will take place in the urban environment of the Plateau Mont-Royal.
For a thorough account of its progress, visit http://bioplitzplateau.wordpress.com/
Scientific data gathering on urban ecology: Although hardly appreciated by most biologists, cities harbour unique ecosystems that are characterized by a high intensity of human-nature interactions. Regarding urban nature as natural ecosystems opens up a whole new discussion about what is nature, what is biodiversity and what is the role of humanity in the evolution of ecosystems. Urban ecosystems are characterized by a large proportion of introduced species, highly altered dispersion mechanisms, a low concentration of accumulated dead organic matter and a composition of species that is adapted to extreme microclimates and polluted environments. Relatively little is known about precisely how these mechanisms interact with nature and what effect they have on the vitality of ecosystems. The Bioblitz is a way of gaining better insight into these processes.
Citizen engagement: The lack of contact with nature has been identified as an important cause for child development disorders (see Richard Louv’s book ‘The Last Child in the Woods’). Children are spending less time outdoors, which is proven to have a negative effect on children’s attention span, their social behavior and their capacity to deal with new and unpredictable situations, in any context. Moreover, for both children and adults, learning about nature requires one to be in contact with it. Gaining knowledge of the subject, in turn, fosters a growing appreciation for it, which is essential for engaging in activities to protect nature. Of course there are more intense ways to get into contact with nature, such as going camping in the woods. An urban Bioblitz, however, offers an opportunity for people to explore nature in a much more accessible way; it provides people with a key to explore nature every time they step out of their door and it allows for people to engage in the protection of nature within their own local community.
Community building: We believe that an active participation of citizens on a local community level is essential for building a sustainable future in cities. In this case we focus on urban biodiversity, but generating local knowledge, sharing local knowledge and using this knowledge in local democratic decision making processes should be a priority for all issues dealing with urban sustainable development (transportation, waste management, decontamination of soils, public water management, etc.). With the urban Bioblitz, we aim to create a platform for the local community to organize itself around these themes.
The "Blitzin'" Plan
On Saturday the 4th of August, a group of approximately one hundred volunteers, accompanied by professional biologists will explore the streets and alleys around park Laurier in search of insects, plants, birds and other organisms. Armed with a simple identification kit for beginners and professional field guides for the more advanced explorers, all species found will be noted on a form, indicating where they have been found, along with some indicators about their physical environment. The day will end in park Laurier with a discussion about the role of urban ecosystems and how humans can positively or negatively influence these systems. The resulting data will be published on our website and will be available for use by individuals, community organizations, universities and the municipality.