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tv   Earth Focus  LINKTV  September 5, 2022 7:30am-8:01am PDT

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narrator: on this episode of "earth focus"...los angeles is known for its urban sprawl and traffic-clogged syst of freeways rather than its diverse array of living species. the second-most-populated city in america is actually a biodiverse hotspot--one of just a few in the entire world. within the confines of this concrete jungle, species are adapting and, in some cases, even thriving. welcome to the los angeles urban wild.
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woman: southern california is one of many hotspot areas around the globe which are areas of extraordinary biological diversity. man: if we just think about l.a. county, you're going from
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sea level to 10,064 feet when you get up to mt. san antonio. when you think about that elevational range, which is the greatest elevational range of any county in the united states, there's a diverse suite of habitats in there, and that includes habitat that might be right along the busiest freeway in the country...but it also includes places where mountain lions live. i mean, it's just this place of absolutely incredible diversity when it comes to thinking about types of habitat and types of species that are thriving here. man: hey, i thought i told you guys to get out of here. now, go. come on. get out of here. male reporter: we have a mom and her kids all going for a nice, refreshing swim all at
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the exact same time. woman: there is a hidden jungle in cities like los angeles, and a hidden savannah and hidden wetlands, and other kinds of ecosystems. pauly: there's no magic line where nature stops and city begins. it's all a giant matrix. and in the most urbanized parts of los angeles, you can still find literally thousands of species of plants and animals. heise: the conventional wisdom used to be that cities are biodiversity wastelands, and we're now beginning to rethink that in two major ways. one is that actually, there's a lot of biodiversity in cities, much more so than we had
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originally known. the other challenge is to think about how we might make this environment that was built by us in terms of buildings, in terms of the parks that we've planted, in terms of the gardens that some of us take care of on a daily basis. how could we make this habitat more hospitable to non-hum species? [coyote barks] [barks] pauly: understanding how species are adapting to urban areas is an area of research that people are really just starting to get serious about studying. things like coyotes and mountain lions and bobcats, species that we may not always think about as being city dwellers but, in fact, with a little bit of research, you realize are actually part of the story of a big city like los angeles. heise: the reon that they n inhabit what we consider to be our spaces is that the city
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has expanded out into their habitat. but coyotes are also one of those species that do make use of human settlements in often quite ingenious ways in that they obviously have learned when to cross streets and when not to cross them. it turns out that coyotes are very smart about actually observing the change of traffic lights. man: so, this is the backside of the park here. there are almost no limits to coyotes' ability to adapt to the urban environment... because south central l.a. is probably synonymous with the most inner-city
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neighborhoods in the world. finding coyotes here is just-- just amazing to me and exciting every time i'm able to collect some more scat. here in south l.a. wetlands, there's proof that coyotes use this area because i'm finding coyote scat inside these fences. coyotes are species that most people know live in the l.a. area, but people think that they live in the mountains-- mountainous areas or griffith park, where there's more open space, but really don't think of them as animals able to adapt to this type of landscape. [car alarm beeps]
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back to the ranger station. yeah, so, we're in griffith park, and here is one right here. this park is surrounded by freeway, by urbanization, by some major barriers for wildlife. so, we just saw two, maybe 3 coyotes within this picnic area. so, they know that this resource is here on a regular basis. coyotes are doing pretty well in this urban landscape thanks to their adaptability, but the mountain lions are another story. they really need some help if they're going to have a population here for multiple generations to come.
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i use camera traps, which are motion-activated cameras that have a sensor in front that's triggered by motion or heat that allows me to document wildlife that is using a particular area. and each photo or each image is time- and date-stamped to tell me activityevels of certain specie oh, there he is. walking right past on the same trail. yeah, he's looking healthy. he's walking really well, which is great to see. p-22 kind of adapted to griffith park, and when i say "kind of adapted," i mean that he has retained the same behavior of his rural
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counterparts in patagonia and in the western santa monicas. but at its core, his story is about survival. and a lot of people can relate to a story where it's about an individual basically facing some very, seemingly insurmountable odds and defeating them. his ability to get into this park, cross through freeways that have killed multiple mountain lions before... and live in a space that is an unprecedented amount of space for a mountain lion to survive in. usually, a male mountain lion needs about 200 square miles of space to itself and griffith park only offers 9 square miles. pauly: we know that the level of urbanization that we are bringing to this landscape is causing immense fragmentation. what are the impacts of freeways like the 405
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and the 101 and the 5 going to do in terms of allowing these populations to continue to have gene flows so that we're not facing massive issues of inbreeding? ordeñana: i'm sure there's a lot of times where he's a lot closer than we think. but he's doing what pumas do best, which is avoiding people at all costs. and that's why they've been around l.a. for so long. that'why they've been ae to survive in this area surrounded by people. h's n now, because he lives in griffith park, going after people's chihuahuasnd pet cats or kind of gotten used to outdoor lighting. he's retaining his behavior as far as eating deer, but he's somehow, and we don't know how he's doing this, he's finding enough prey and he's able to avoid people even though there's so much more activity in his habitat than other mountain lion habitat.
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p-22 has gone through a lot of misadventures. because he's a celebrity, he's been able to kind of survive a lot of these circumstances. one of those incidences was him getting stuck under a house and wildlife officers shooting him with beanbag rounds and tennis ball guns. he kept his cool to the point where he waited for those people to tire themselves out before he left, and he left without anybody seeing him. and that's him being able to kind of use those natural skills of being elusive to keep his distance and stay safe. even the most adaptable species out here, arguably the coyote the raccoon, have trouble in this landscape because of roads and of a lot of other urban dangers. pauly: and the reality is the decisions that we make today are going to be all the difference
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as to whether those mountain lions are in the l.a. area 100 years from now. heise: we have been overall, over the last 150 years, been very successful at displacing especially a lot of the animals out of the city that were to some degree harmful to human health and well-being. but we're now also realizing that in some sense we have overdone that. ordeñana: i believe it's our responsibility to facilitate their coexistence with us. and for mountain lions and wide-ranging species that also include deer, we need to allow for safe passage across these very formidable barriers that we've created. what's being proposed along the 101 freeway in agoura hills is to build a crossing, a wildlife crossing. this is not a new concept. a lot of other countries have already built these wildlife crossings. what these are are not just bridges, but they're bridges that are vegetated, that have nice
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restoration that's done leading up to these crossing points and fencing that funnel these animals. heise: the cost is comparative. so, it's $50 million that we will invest in mountain lion habitat that we won't invest in something else. so, i think there needs to be democratic decision making and extensive consultation about whether we want to do this and who will raise the money for this, who will pay for this. what do we owe mountain lions, what do we owe to other species of plants and animals? pauly: man-made structures act as barriers for lots of species
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in urban areas. but some aspects of our infrastructure actually allow non-native species to thrive. the big moment for thinking about water in los angeles is 1913. once you have permanent water on the landscape, lots of non-native species, if they get introduced, can now make it. so, what's happened is that non-native species that get introduced to southern california, that are maybe from a more tropical place, now can make it here because there's much more water. and one of the ways that a lot of these species are coming in is actually via the nursery plant trade. [animals calling] things like brown anoles and green anoles and various species of geckos and now a thing called the coqui frog. "coqui, coqui, coqui," and it
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might do this all night long. so, if you live in a neighborhood with a coqui frog, you might find it incredibly aggravating. so, the coqui frog was introduced to hawaii in the 1980s. once they get established in hawaii, they start coming to california on rsery plants. and so, now we have em established at two nurseries here in southern california. we currently have 15 people out helping us search for these coqui frogs, and that includes biologist with the california department of fish and wildlife as well as biologist with the natural history museum. but there's these real implications of these coqui frogs showing up and having these impacts and it's just all because they're doing what a lot of other species are doing, which is hitchhiking a ride into the nursery plant trade. as a biologist, m interest is understanding how species are dealing with urbanization, whether those are native species that are trying to adapt to these urban settings, or whether these are non-native species that have been introduced as a result of human activity and are also trying to find a way to me it here in the los angeles area.
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we were here specifically to look for slender salamanders. give me a hand grabbing these. and we were able to find 7 slender salamanders, and on top of that we found two other native species--a western fence lizard and a southern alligator lizard. you got a brahminy blind snake? no way! they're super squirmy. woman: yeah, so, we've got a brahminy blind snake here. pauly: yeah, we don't have any-- i don't have any reports of brahminy blind snakes right around here. with those slender salamanders, we were able to use some swabs to swab their skin, and those
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swabs will then be--the dna in those swabs will be sequenced. in addition to that, we were able to take some measurements, some length measurements and some weight measurements. woman: go. yeah. .5 grams. pauly: i certainly was hopeful that we would get one species today. i never imagind that w would get 4 species. in urban places, you have these huge matrices of private properties, just a giant jigsaw puzzle of private property, and so, as a biologist, every 10 steps, i'm on a new piece of private property. what we found is that the best way to do biodiversity research in urban areas is to enlist the help of literally thousands of people. greg and emily han and other community scientists that have participated in our programs are what allow us to do urban biodiversity research. greg han: i was just, i don't know, staring off in the distance while scrubbing dishes and i saw this little bit of bright blue that did not look like anything you would see in your backyard.
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emily han: our claim to fame is wdiscovered a population of previously undiscovered snails in los angeles. so, we immediately started looking for more snails and found a bunch of other really tiny, little snails. he put a picture of the snails on instagram, and once he did that, we got a notification that scientists and other snail enthusiasts were very excited about this snail find. woman: it looks great back here, emily. emily han: thanks. woman: and i contacted gregory to say, can i come out and get it because we don't have any of those specimens in the collection. yep, that's xerotricha there. and who's this little guy? emily han: is that a cochlicella barbara? a really teeny, tiny one? vendetti: yep, that's a juvenile. so, in february 1 of 2016, i came out here, the hans invited me, and we just did a little exploration of their backyard and collected xerotricha conspurcata, so, the species we're talking about, but then also this other species called cochlicella barbara, which also is a first record for los angeles county. and then now, almost two years later, i'm back
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assessing are those species still here. and they are. we literally are collaborators. like, we have papers together with all of our names on it. so, those are things that-- that collaboration makes this specimen and citizen science and standing in this backyard a really meaningful thing. pauly: this one's gonna go right there. we have the specimens that you see behind me, and other specimens all throughout this institution. over 35 million specimens and historical collection objects. and those can basically be a time machine so that we can understand where species were found in the past. when we think about the greatest threats to biodiversity that our planet is currently facing, we think about things like climate change, and the reality is that one of the biggest threats is actually urbanization. s we now know that as of 2009, 50% of the human population is
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now living in urban areas, and so, suddenly, it becomes a huge imperative on people to understand how we can make urban areas more welcoming to native and desired spees. and what better place to do that than los angeles? [bell rings] man: esperanza is located in one of the highest-density neighborhoods of downtown los angeles. [kids speaking indistinctly] i'm the principal of esperanza elementary school, just east of the skyscrapers of downtown in the westlake neighborhood, downtown los angeles. woman: can you write the name and post it under the correct bird? kids: house finch, mourning dove, european starling, brewer's blackbird, red-tailed hawk, american crow. boy: hooded oriole, gray egret, great blue heron,
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and a mockingbird. rumble: the students love this. they love charging in here and really getting to know at a very deep, profound level what's showing up in our habitat. we observe, we record, we analyze, we share. all of these are important skills for our students. so, at the very bottom, do you see the live spider ithere? kids: yeah. rumble: i'm surrounded by deerweed, native sages, encilia, but if you go back to 2014, i would have been standing on asphalt. peel back that asphalt, allow the dirt to be there, to plant native plants and create a living laboratory for students to really explore. girl: my name is ramona ramino. i like the garden because we come here and explore nature in the garden. what i see in the garn is hummingbirds, mockingbirds, and
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flowers. second girl: my name is jimena lopez. we're trying to illustrate poppies and deer grass. boy: the california poppy is a flower native to california. rumble: it was a beautiful thing to have a burrowing owl be discovered by a fourth-grade student two winters ago. and even more incredible was that this little owl stayed with us, and so, i sometimes think of this as a zoo without cages. i think of my students who live in those buildings right across the street. they wake up in a concrete building. they go down concrete stairs. there's a little patch of concrete maybe to bounce a ball. they walk across a concrete sidewalk, an asphalt street, another concrete sidewalk, and they come onto a campus which is largely asphalt. then they go home
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and they do it again. they need this connection to nature like every human being. nothey have access to nature right here on their campus. heise: i like to call it multispecies justice, so, it's thinking about what is it right to do by people. how do we make this a more just, a more fair space for the different groups of people who inhabit the city, but how do we also make it a habitable place for the non-human species that are already here? pauly: there has been this general idea out there that if you want to see nature, you need to go to yellowstone or yosemite, and the reality is that that's not true. and everybody should know that that's not true because they just have to start looking around and they can see the incredible diversity of species that are around them at all
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times. you don't need to travel anywhere to see nature. you just need to start observing. announcer: "earth focus" is made possible in part by the orange county community foundation and the farvue foundation.
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09/01/22 09/01/22 [captioning made possible amy: from new york this is democracy now! >> remember, this power of the people on top depends on the obedience of the people below. when people stop obeying, they have no power. when workers go on strike, huge corporations lose their power. when consumers boycott, huge business establishments have to give in. amy: today a democracy now! special remembering the legendary historian and activist howard zinn,


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