San Diego is home to more than 150 canyons. These special spaces provide important benefits for people, plants, and animals. In fact, our canyons are home to 85 rare, threatened, and endangered species. Canyons absorb and filter stormwater run-off, naturally combatting flooding and pollution and their natural landscapes help buffer higher temperatures common in developed areas. They serve as important wildlife corridors for animals to safely move throughout urban spaces they would not otherwise be able to traverse. And, they provide much needed recreational space.
Thanks to its urban canyons, 81% of San Diego’s 1.4 million residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park or green space. As the population has grown, and flat land has been increasingly developed, these steep, difficult-to-build-on places are often left untouched. This means in many urban areas, canyons survive as the only green spaces, and are home to many things that humans, plants, and animals depend on for a healthy environment.
Unfortunately, canyons are threatened by continued development, pollution, invasive species, and more. We want to better understand how we can help protect these special spaces and ensure their unique benefits remain accessible to our communities for generations to come.
We have launched a pilot project using the strength of community science to learn more about the environment in our canyons and backyards. We are working with two local neighborhoods to engage the communities in backyard science projects. Participants will learn about the species present near their homes and how they relate to the canyons. Ultimately, this will help us all learn about our urban and wild environment. We are also conducting a community assessment to learn how to make these special canyon spaces more accessible for everyone.
By developing an empowered network of community activists and organizations we aim to make our canyons accessible to everyone. Because they are your canyons. And our canyons. This is about understanding the overlap between the urban environment and wildlife. Together we can help and share how nature plays a revitalizing role in peoples’ lives.