NCEAS Project 12592

Comparative ecology of cities: What makes an urban biota “urban”?

  • Myla Aronson
  • Madhusudan Katti
  • Charles H. Nilon
  • Paige S. Warren

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group10th—14th January 2011Participant List  
Working Group7th—16th July 2011Participant List  
Working Group17th—21st January 2012Participant List  

The rapid urbanization of the world has profound effects on global biodiversity and urbanization has been counted among the processes contributing to the homogenization of the world’s biota. However, there are few generalities of the patterns and drivers of urban biota and even fewer global comparative studies. A comparative approach of urban biota is needed to produce comparable methodologies to understand, preserve, and monitor biodiversity in cities. We propose an NCEAS working group involving researchers from cities worldwide to develop synthesis of urban ecology. We ask the overarching question: “What makes an urban biota ‘urban’?” and with that, “Are the patterns of urban biota and the processes that shape them the same across the world’s cities?” We have identified several factors that may serve as filters determining species distributions. We propose a hierarchical series of filters: 1) regional scale biogeographic context, 2) metropolitan scale urban intensification, and 3) local scale socio-economic/cultural factors. We will use plants and birds as independent datasets for addressing these broad questions. There is a newly matured wealth of existing urban bird and plant datasets for cities of different sizes, ages, and cultural and development patterns such as Baltimore, Berlin, Jalisco, New York City, Phoenix, Potchefstroom, and Stockholm, among others. We propose to bring datasets together, using commonly available data (e.g. land cover layers, national censuses, life history databases) to synthesize the urban biota. Outcomes from these proposed extensive comparative analyses will not only help to push forward the frontiers of transdisciplinarity in ecology, but will also provide useful information for planners and managers.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Aronson, Myla; La Sorte, Frank A.; Nilon, Charles H.; Katti, Madhusudan; Goddard, Mark; Lepczyk, Christopher A.; Warren, Paige S.; Williams, Nicholas S.G.; Cilliers, Sarel; Clarkson, Bruce; Dobbs-Brown, Cynnamon; Dolan, Rebecca; Hedblom, Marcus; Klotz, Stefan; Louwe Kooijmans, Jip; Kühn, Ingolf; MacGregor, Ian; McDonnell, Mark; Mörtberg, Ulla; Pyšek, Petr; Siebert, Stefan; Sushinsky, Jessica; Werner, Peter; Winter, Marten. 2014. A global analysis of the impacts of urbanization on bird and plant diversity reveals key anthropogenic drivers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological S. Vol: 281(1780). Pages 20133330-20133330.
Book Chapter Hedblom, Marcus; Mörtberg, Ulla. 2011. Characterizing biodiversity in urban areas using remote sensing. Edited by Xiaojun Yang Urban Remote Sensing: Monitoring, Synthesis and Modeling in the Urban Environment. John Wiley and Sons, Ltd. Pages 287-304.
Journal Article La Sorte, Frank A.; Aronson, Myla; Williams, Nicholas S.G.; Celesti-Grapow, Laura; Clarkson, Bruce; Dolan, Rebecca; Hipp, Andrew; Klotz, Stefan; Kühn, Ingolf; Pyšek, Petr; Siebert, Stefan; Winter, Marten. 2014. Beta diversity of urban floras among European and non-European cities. Global Ecology and Biogeography. Pages n/a-n/a.