Farmington Hills; The Natural Resources of Suburbia
June 3, 2010
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Farmington Hills, MI is your typical suburb. Strip malls, chain restaurants, wide and busy roads, and bright white concrete best describe these environments.
The parks and natural areas, too, are typical of these types of communities. Today I hiked through a community nature park which had nice wide trails and clear signage, making it easy for the city dweller to get around. The park appeared to be part of a remnant beech-maple forest, an ecological community that was once common in Southeast Michigan. Beech-maple forests are dominated by the American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) and maple trees (Acer spp.) as their over story trees. They are well known for their spring wildflowers and ample woodland wildlife.
This park had large beech trees and lush green maple trees. However, as with most parks of American Suburbia, deer have taken out much of the understory herbs and tree saplings, leaving much of the forest floor devoid of regenerating vegetation. Invasive species, such as buckthorn and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) are quickly replacing the native understory plants. The roar of a busy interstate freeway goes past wetlands filled with narrow-leaved cattail (Typha angustifolia) and Reed grasses. The park is surrounded on all four sides by urban and suburban development, isolating this patch of habitat from anywhere else. Suburbs seem like such a safe and quiet place. But in reality, they can essentially become an ecological wasteland.
Nevertheless, I hear a wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) singing its lonely call, and I catch a glimpse of the bright orange from a Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) foraging in the bushes. To me this indicates that even these small patches of wild in a sea of tame can be very helpful for natural resources conservation.
Photo A: My mother stands in a tract of woods in northern Wisconsin whose understory has been cleared by deer herbivory.
- Photo B: A forest with much more understory brush, indicating less problems with herbivory.