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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

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.
Working Group Participants

Principal Investigator(s)

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

Project Dates

Start: January 1, 2011

End: January 21, 2012



Myla Aronson
Hofstra University
Mary L. Cadenasso
Sarel Cilliers
North-West University
Bruce Clarkson
University of Waikato
Cynnamon Dobbs-Brown
University of Melbourne
Mark Goddard
University of Leeds
Marcus Hedblom
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Madhusudan Katti
California State University, Fresno
Ingolf Kühn
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Frank A. La Sorte
Cornell University
Christopher A. Lepczyk
University of Hawaii, Mānoa
Jip Louwe Kooijmans
Netherlands Society for the Protection of Birds
Ian MacGregor
Instituto de Ecología, A.C. (INECOL)
John M. Marzluff
University of Washington
Rachel McCaffrey
University of Arizona
Mark McDonnell
University of Melbourne
Ulla Mörtberg
Royal Institute of Technology
Charles H. Nilon
University of Missouri, Columbia
Dave Oleyar
University of Washington
Stefan Siebert
North-West University
Paige S. Warren
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Peter Werner
Institut Wohnen und Umwelt
Nicholas S.G. Williams
University of Melbourne


  1. Journal Article / 2014

    A global analysis of the impacts of urbanization on bird and plant diversity reveals key anthropogenic drivers

  2. Book Chapter / 2011

    Characterizing biodiversity in urban areas using remote sensing

  3. Journal Article / 2014

    Beta diversity of urban floras among European and non-European cities

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