Tales from the Concrete Jungle: a symposium on urban biodiversity at ESA 2012

Are you in Portland for the 97th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America (or following along in the twitter backchannel via #ESA2012 or, even tripping on the tweetbeam)? Are you interested in urban biodiversity? Want to know how much of the earth’s biodiversity still occurs in cities, how we influence species interactions, and how we might better manage our cities to support more species on our increasingly urban planet? If so, then today is your lucky day, because this afternoon (Portland time!), we have a symposium for you covering just these topics:

SYMP 15 – Tales From the Concrete Jungle: Understanding and Sustaining the Earth’s Urban Biodiversity From Local to Global Scales

Wednesday, August 8, 2012: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM

Portland Blrm 253, Oregon Convention Center

Organizer:

Myla F.J. Aronson

Co-organizers:

Mark Goddard , Madhusudan Katti , Frank La Sorte , Christopher A. Lepczyk , Mark McDonnell , Charles H. Nilon , Paige S. Warren and Nicholas S. G. Williams

Moderator:

Myla F.J. Aronson

The rapid urbanization of the world has had profound effects on global biodiversity. The increasing number of people living in cities and towns, coupled with the magnitude and intensity of human activities has resulted in significant impacts for local, regional and global environments. The creation and expansion of cities produces new types of land-cover and environmental conditions. These changes in land use and land cover result in native habitat loss and landscape fragmentation, toxification of the biosphere, loss of ecosystem function, the introduction of exotic species, and the loss of native species. The predicted increases in the number and size of human settlements, especially in developing countries, over the next 20 years, coupled with the predicted changes in climate has created an unprecedented call for scientific information to guide management strategies and mitigation options to create sustainable and habitable cities and towns for the future. Despite recognition for the importance of urban biodiversity by the Convention of Biological Diversity and an emerging base of science on the biodiversity of urban areas, a general synthesis on biodiversity is in a fledgling state. A comparative approach to urban biota is needed to produce comparable methodologies to understand, preserve, and monitor biodiversity in cities. The design and construction of urban infrastructure can create novel habitats for plants and animals that can supplement remnant habitats for species and communities in cities and towns, or that can provide habitat that has been destroyed in a region due to human development of the landscape. This symposium will bring together an international group of urban ecologists to identify: 1) global patterns of biodiversity within and across cities; 2) their environmental and social drivers; and 3) opportunities for using ecological knowledge to develop effective biodiversity management, restoration and planning strategies. The symposium will be structured into two parts. The first will address the patterns and drivers of biodiversity within and across cities in order to provide a general synthesis of biodiversity. The second part of the symposium will address design and planning of cities for biodiversity from the micro-scale (green roof ecology) to the city-scale.

The symposium grew out of a working group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) we convened throughout last year, to compile a global database of urban plant and bird diversity, and address questions about the patterns and processes governing urban biodiversity. Till date we have species lists of plants and/or birds from more than 150 cities from all continents (except Antarctica, of course), and continue to add to this database. Putting together this big database (the biggest one on urban biodiversity of which we are aware) and playing with the data on our computers is the most fun thing I’ve done in recent years! We are pretty excited about what we’ve found so far (first manuscript is in review) and expect others will be interested as well. This symposium is the first big public forum where we will share results of our broad global synthesis (tale #2 by Frank La Sorte, in particular). Many of the collaborators in the working group are also presenting results from their own more local research, focusing in greater detail on the processes governing the big patterns, as we continue weaving the tales together towards capturing a richer tapestry of urban biodiversity. You can find the full list of talks, with links to abstracts on the symposium page. Members of the NCEAS working group who are in Portland (which is no longer actually supported by NCEAS since our funding ended) will meet this weekend (after ESA2012 is over) to work on further analyses, and discuss ways to continue building on this growing network of urban biodiversity researchers. If you are interested in finding out more, and even joining our network, please leave a comment below, or email/tweet me and I will be happy to help in any way I can.

Meanwhile, alas, having helped bring together these tales from the concrete jungle, I can’t hear them in the room myself because I’m in faraway Stockholm! Which means I will, of course, be lurking in the twitter backchannel especially during this symposium (the #BiodiverCity). There I hope to see lots of the participants’ faces/avatars pop up in the tweetbeam as they relay the proceedings to distant participants like me.

Live-tweet this session for me, won’t you?

About aranyak

I am an associate professor of vertebrate ecology at California State University, Fresno.
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