Approach

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.

 

Our team is studying diverse study systems including> 40 individual species or study taxa and representing seven species of fishes, eight birds, two amphibians, four reptiles, five mammals, five arthropods, and nine plants. We will capitalize on the team expertise and datasets of the partnering research labs and LTER sites to carry out targeted, mechanistic experiments to address the questions outlined above and to inform the development of cross-comparative multi-taxa and multi-sites experiments that are crucial to address an urban eco-evolutionary long-term research agenda.

 
 

Urban Eco Evo Research

The network 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 we attribute trait changes in response to phenotypic plasticity or evolutionary change?


4. What are the functional consequences of urban-induced evolutionary changes on ecosystems?

Conceptual Framework

We will address these questions by developing a conceptual framework linking urbanization and eco-evolutionary dynamics. Urban ecosystems are coupled human-natural systems in which socioeconomic and biophysical factors drive societal and ecological function through interactions and feedbacks between the human, natural, and built system components. Emerging patterns of urbanization influence eco-evolutionary dynamics through a series of mechanisms including habitat change (structure and processes), biotic interactions, landscape heterogeneity, novel disturbances, and social interactions. Phenotypic changes feed back to urban ecosystems through changes in ecosystem function.

"Cities are microcosms of the evolutionary changes that are occurring on a planetary scale and thus provide a natural laboratory to advance our understanding of eco-evolutionary dynamics in a rapidly urbanizing world." 

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