The Ecological Impact of Urbanisation

Experts from UD were involved in an international project, the findings of which have been published recently in a prestigious journal, Nature Communications. The research was especially important because understanding the global changes caused by urbanisation helps us develop effective measures to mitigate the impact of urbanisation on ecological systems.

- Urbanisation, meaning the spatial expansion of cities, the growing popularity of urban lifestyle, and the increasing number and proportion of people living in cities is a phenomenon that we can witness all over the world, and is one of the key environmental issues of our time. Urbanisation results in the fragmentation and isolation of natural habitats, endangaring the survival of species living in the affected areas – Tibor Magura, teacher and head of the Department of Ecology of the Faculty of Science and Technology of UD told

The Department of Ecology and the ELKH-UD working group have been involved in a major international research project designed to study the ecological impact of urbanisation. The project was also supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation. In the framework of the research, entitled The Urban Biodiversity Research Coordination Network - UrBioNet, experts have studied the distribution and functional characteristics of 5302 species of six groups of animals (bees, ground beetles, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and bats) on six continents.

Out of the 379 cities involved in the project, Debrecen was the only one where observations were made in Hungary. Several researchers of the Department of Ecology participated in the work, including teacher Tibor Madura, teacher Béla Tóthmérész, senior lecturer Szabolcs Mizser and associate professor Roland Horváth.
Researchers found out that urbanisation definetely affected the functional characteristics of the species observed, although to different degrees.

- For instance, the body size of animals has been affected by urbanisation, but the extent varied with the species. Ground beetles, reptiles and birds are bigger in highly urbanised areas, while amphibians and bats are smaller. Our results also suggest that the increase of urban areas may also affect the diet of animals – explained professor Magura.

According to the results, reproduction strategies were the most affected by urbanisation. The number of eggs laid by amphibians, reptiles and birds had decreased, along with the number of bat species with special habitat needs. Also, the number of grond beetles living through the winter in fully developed form, and the proportion of bee species not living in colonies had grown.

-    Our findings provide further proof that cities are not biological deserts, and diversity can be sustained in urban areas. Especially resources are the key factors, mainly in terms of reproduction, that determine diversity – pointed out professor Magura.
Findings of the international project have been published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications. The study is freely available.

According to professor Magura, the results may p!ay a key role in understanding the dynamics and the biotic homogenisation of urban ecological communities. The understanding of global changes generated by urbanisation is absolutely necessary for researchers to develop efficient measures in order to mitigate the ecological impact of urbanisation.

Researchers are planning to involve further groups of animals in the project.

Press Centre - CzA