Comparative Ecology of Cities: What Makes an Urban Biota “Urban”?
Urban landscapes are rapidly expanding globally and over 50% of humanity now lives in cities. Because the majority of human settlements are in areas of high biodiversity, the rapid urbanization of the world has profound effects on global biodiversity. Few generalizations, however, have been derived to account for the patterns and drivers of urban biota and there are even fewer global comparative studies. Yet a comparative approach to studying urban biota is needed to understand, preserve, and monitor biodiversity in cities. In this working group, 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?” This project will analyze data on birds and plants from cities in the northern and southern hemispheres, cities new and old, cities from developed and developing countries, and cities that have developed under different planning practices. Outcomes from these analyses will not only help to push forward our understanding of the ecology of cities, but will also provide useful information to planners and managers for the monitoring and preservation of biodiversity in urban regions.
This research aims to: 1. Compile and synthesize large, diverse datasets of the flora and avifauna of cities around the world; 2. Compare the patterns and ecological responses of birds and plants in urban habitats; 3. Understand the social constraints on biodiversity in cities; and 4. Develop recommendations for monitoring biodiversity in urban areas.