Urban Eco Evo NET:
A Research Network to advance the study and understanding of eco-evolutionary dynamics in an urban planet
Cities across the globe are driving rapid evolutionary changes in plants, animals, fungi, viruses, and other organisms. Organisms can adapt to the urban environment by changing their physiology, morphology, and behaviors. Because these organisms can play important roles in nutrient cycling, pollination, seed dispersal, water and air purification, and food production, any changes in their traits might have significant effects on human well-being. The challenge is to understand the mechanisms of urban-driven evolutionary change and determine whether these changes might affect ecosystem function at the planetary scale.
Urban_Eco_Evo NET will foster the convergence of research on urban eco-evolutionary dynamics by combining the expertise, data, and analytical methods of evolutionary biologists, ecosystem scientists, ecologists, urban ecologists, palaeoecologists, and archaeologists. It will bring together scientists from diverse disciplines across different institutions studying a variety of study systems to design and perform long-term cross-comparative studies, to synthesize the science, and to explore mechanisms that link urban development patterns to rapid evolution and the potential for those changes to feedback to shape ecosystems.
Participants will explore four central questions: (1) What is the evidence for urban signatures of phenotypic change distinct from natural and other anthropogenic drivers? (2) To what degree does urban trait change differ among branches of the tree of life, or among distinct life-history strategies, traits or biomes? (3) To what degree can trait changes be attributed to phenotypic plasticity or to evolutionary change? (4) What are the functional consequences of urban-induced evolutionary changes on ecosystems?
To accurately predict the responses of populations, communities, and ecosystems to urbanization, we will use meta-analyses of individual character variation among urban and non-urban environments and multimodel inference to evaluate competing hypotheses and to assess the relative importance of predictor variables. They will also use targeted mechanistic experiments to test specific predictions suggested by the meta-analysis and use partitioning metrics to separate the contributions of phenotypic plasticity and evolutionary change.
Dr. Max Lambert has received a David H. Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship through the Society for Conservation Biology to study whether amphibians of conservation concern can rapidly evolve to urban storm water pollution. Lambert's study will be some of the first field research exploring convergent evolution to urban ecosystems and also using evolutionary principles to better manage urban wildlife. He will integrate field experiments with analytical chemistry and genomics to understand the urban evolutionary biology of several amphibian species in Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. This research is critical for understanding the relative role of landscape development and aquatic pollution in limiting amphibian success in urban environments. This work will develop insight and tools for integrating evolutionary biology to enhance urban conservation efforts. Lambert will be mentored by Dr. Marina Alberti at the University of Washington, Dr. Bree Rosenblum at UC Berkeley, Laura Guderyahn with the City of Portland Department of Parks & Recreation, and Priya Nanjappa with Conservation Science Partners.
The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year, $500,000 grant to a multi-institution research network team headed by Marina Alberti (University of Washington), to advance understanding of global eco-evolutionary dynamics.
This new article article provides a roadmap for future research aimed at advancing our understanding of the interplay between ecology and evolution of urban‐dwelling organisms