Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2008 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Biodiversity and Community Composition in Urban Ecosystems: Coupled Human, Spatial and Metacommunity processes
Swan, Christopher
Abstract: Urban ecosystems present ecologists with the unique opportunity to study ecological communities in the context of drastic structural and environmental change unprecedented in pristine environments. The consequences of such change have led to novel modifications of species composition, dominance, behavior and dispersal. Inherent to these changes are the complex relationships between human behavior and decision-making, spatial structure of the landscape, and the natural processes involved in determining local species richness and composition. Furthermore, the scope for feedbacks between these processes is strong, reinforcing the interdisciplinary nature of the problem of understanding the community ecology of urban ecosystems. I present here a conceptual overview of the problem, and bring to bear an emerging theme in community ecology, the concept of the metacommunity, as an instrument to integrate these processes. In developing this concept, I contend that human valuation of species and behavior at the local scale has the potential to strongly influence species sorting patterns. At larger scales, human modification of spatial features, especially those related to connectance between local communities, mediates dispersal patterns and distance-decay relationships. This conceptual development is supported by empirical examples from across trophic levels. By embracing space explicitly in the context of metacommunity theory, the interaction and feedback with human systems can be integrated to aid in understanding the processes supporting patterns of species diversity and composition in urban ecosystems.