Bioblitzing

Tomorrow marks the end of the first annual Blogger Bioblitz, organized by Jeremy over at The Voltage Gate (via Pines Above Snow). Started by biologist extraordinaire E.O. Wilson, bioblitzes are a 24-hour biodiversity survey on a plot of urban land. They’re hardly scientific: as one commenter on The Voltage Gate points out, the vast majority of the organisms in any given area are too small to see with the naked eye. But thoroughness isn’t the point. Bioblitzing is more for us, the humans, to begin to appreciate that there’s a whole teeming community of lifeforms right under noses, whether we live in rural Alabama or NYC.

Unfortunately, I found out about the Voltage Gate’s blitzfest too late to participate, but it got me thinking about the potential of bioblitzing as a tool for ecodesign. After using a blitz to catalogue the urban ecosystem, we can begin to understand how it functions, moving from the “what” to the “why.” In what ways are the scrub oak trees in my backyard adapted to the high desert climate – and the even harsher microclimate of a small city? How do the dozens of cats that roam freely around my neighborhood affect the natural food chain?

As an ecodesigner, I’m always on the lookout for ways to integrate natural systems with the built environment. Bioblitzes are part of the foundation of that process, what permaculturists term “long and thoughtful observation.” Once we understand what’s around us and why it works so well, we can begin to incorporate the lessons learned into our designs… and that’s where the really fun part kicks in.

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