Bigger is better when it comes to protecting habitat for plants and animals, and at 1,300 acres, Red Mountain Park is the biggest urban park in Birmingham and one of the largest urban parks in the world. Because larger parks have more resources and a more diverse ecology than smaller parks, they support more species and larger populations than smaller parks.
That said, the ecosystems of Red Mountain Park have been through some rough times. Most forests were cut down, erosion stripped away topsoil, mine tailings were dumped, mining towns were built, and the mountain slopes were pitted with mine portals and crisscrossed with tracks and roads.
But nature began reclaiming the mountain when the mines were abandoned. Trees established, surviving wildflower populations spread, and wildlife migrated back to the mountain. Today, Red Mountain Park supports many acres of beautiful – but still young – deciduous forest. A separate article describes Red Mountain’s forests in more detail.
Unfortunately, some of the species that staked a claim on the mountain are among the worst exotic species to invade the South, especially Kudzu and Chinese Privet. In many places in the park, these two species grow so quickly and thickly that most native plants and wildlife don’t stand a chance.
As the park’s ecosystems recover, the returning nature helps to protect people and improve their way of life. Forested slopes absorb rainwater and reduce flash flooding in the valleys. The lush vegetation on the mountain keeps surrounding neighborhoods cooler in the summer. Forests filter the air of dust and other harmful particulates. And not insignificantly, the park’s forests provide people with an escape urban life, whether they come to play, exercise, or study nature.