Well, this sure muddies the waters.
Federal and university researchers found that the saltwaters off the fantastic concrete-and-steel-and-Starbucksosphere we’ve built here in Pugetropolis are richer than you woulda thunk.
“We thought for sure we would see urbanization lead to a decrease in the number of different species we saw,” Professor Ryan Kelly of the University of Washington told KUOW. “Instead we found the opposite.”
Now, before the Building Industry Association of Washington, Master Builders of King Co, et al, get any bright ideas about putting up another Seattle or Tacoma at the mouths of the Stillaguamish, Skagit, Nisqually, Skokomish and other rivers, know that the researchers were among the first to use a new method dubbed eDNA for environmental DNA.
Basically, they used it to test for the “suite” of living organisms in a location, and they studied four urban and not-so-built-up shorelines in the Central Sound.
Their working theories are that runoff from urban areas contains more nutrients than elsewhere or that regrading Denny Hill, etc., dumps more mud into the bays and leads to more clams, snails, etc., etc., etc.
“Or a reverse correlation is possible where the richness of the nearshore influences where humans settle most densely,” KUOW reports.
The paper, which is available here gratis, concludes:
“We see these results as a counterexample to the idea that humans uniformly decrease biodiversity. Rather, the observation that more urbanized areas support larger, but more homogeneous, suites of species indicates a more nuanced effect of human alteration on nearshore communities.”
Just as with all those number-crunching, counterintuitive and counterintuitiver wolf-livestock conflict studies, this seems ripe for other researchers to try and see if they can replicate the results, or not.