Drones, cats, solar panels among threats to urban wildlife — New Zealand-led study

WELLINGTON — Some of the technology aimed at softening human impact on the environment could ironically end up chasing nature from the world’s cities, according to a New Zealand-led study out Wednesday.

Researchers at the University of Auckland’s School of Biological Sciences brought together experts from Australia and Britain to identify current trends and new technologies that pose the biggest threat to urban ecosystems.

The list included advances in technology aimed at lessening human impact on the environment.

“We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater — some of these new technologies bring a range of environmental benefits,” lead author Dr. Margaret Stanley said in a statement.

“But clever solutions are going to be needed to mitigate threats to urban biodiversity if we are to maintain our connection with nature as we become increasingly urbanized.”

The top 10 potential threats to urban ecosystems were:

— Health demands on green space as green urban spaces become highly maintained for people rather than wildlife; with more tracks, artificial lighting and fewer plants.

— Digital replacement of nature, such as images and sound recordings, that could lead to city dwellers undervaluing nature in their immediate environment.

— Scattered cremains (material resulting from cremation) — a result of rising burial costs — which have high levels of phosphate and calcium that could pollute ecosystems and waterways.

— Spread of disease by pet cats, which are believed to number more than 600 million, into wildlife populations.

— The switch to LED (light-emitting diode) lights, which have a whiter spectrum of light that can disrupt the physiology and behavior of wildlife.

— Solar panels that can disrupt the behavior and reproduction of animals that are attracted to the polarized light they produce.

— Invisible nanoparticles, such as graphene, from nanotechnology there has been almost no research on their effect on animals, plants and entire ecosystems.

— Self-healing concrete, which is infused with specialized bacteria that could spell the end of the often unique biodiversity that thrives in cracked concrete all around cities.

— Energy efficient homes that are sealed off from the outside, resulting in loss of breeding sites for wildlife such as bats and nesting birds.

— Drones, which are likely to result in issues for wildlife, such as nesting birds, that are particularly sensitive to stress and repeated aerial disturbance. PNA/Xinhua