Tag Archives: urban ecology

Field work news – Chapter 1

Plants, plant traits and ground-dwelling arthropods

Unfortunately, spring was very cold and rainy but however, we ‘bravely’ started our field work for the BIBS project some weeks ago. Currently, our team is doing the plant diversity assessments and also pitfall traps are exposed. Moreover, we are measuring plant traits to analyse intraspecific trait variations along the urbanisation gradient – we are going to run these analyses for invertebrate taxa and hopefully sand lizard populations as well – wait and see. In addition, some students are observing phenology of plant species at 30 sites – very labour-intensive. Today I emptied our pitfall traps for the first time and I can’t wait to study our samples in the lab.

Sand lizards move downtown

Conference talk (in German) in Berlin

Die Zauneidechse mag es urban. Was bedeutet das für den Artenschutz und die Stadtplanung?”. Meeting of the Brandenburg Berlin herpetologists in Berlin – more information. If you are interested in our studies on urban effects on sand lizard populations, please read our article “The sand lizard moves downtown – habitat analogues for an endangered species in a  metropolitan area” in Urban Ecosystems.

Treffen der Brandenburg-Berliner Feldherpetologen am 18.02.2017 in Berlin, Herzberge (Informationen und Programm).

New paper on urban grasshoppers!

Grasshopper diversity of urban wastelands is primarily boosted by habitat factors has been published in Insect Diversity and Conservation.

Authors Eckert S, Möller M & Buchholz S

Abstract Urban wastelands are considered to be valuable habitats for biodiversity conservation, but empirical evidence for several poorly investigated taxa such as grasshoppers is still pending – although urgently required for reasonable habitat management and urban planning. For the first time, we analysed grasshopper diversity of urban wastelands at different diversity levels, namely, alpha and functional diversity. In 2014, we selected 24 urban wastelands in the city of Berlin (Germany).

Urban wasteland harbouring a Calliptamus italicus population

Urban wasteland harbouring a Calliptamus italicus population

We analysed the relationships between local and landscape factors and different measurements of diversity (species richness, Simpson diversity, functional dispersion, functional evenness and functional divergence). We sampled 21 species, which represented about 45% of the entire grasshopper fauna of Berlin and numerous species of conservation interest were present at the investigated sites. Grasshopper diversity was best explained by local factors, with herb cover having a positive effect on alpha and functional diversity. Human impact and accessibility increased the conservation value of urban wasteland sites.

Late successional stages are very important for a high grasshopper diversity in general but early stages are mandatory to promote species of conservation concern. Urban wastelands can be turned into most promising transition zones for city-dwellers that fulfil the needs of conservationists and specialised species at the same time. To achieve this goal we recommend minimum requirements for successful habitat management.


New paper on urban pollinators

Disentangling urban habitat and matrix effects on wild bee species has been published in PeerJ.

Authors Fischer LK, Eichfeld J, Kowarik I & Buchholz S

Abstract In face of a dramatic decline of wild bee species in many rural landscapes, potential conservation functions of urban areas gain importance.  Yet effects of urbanization on pollinators, and in particular on wild bees, remain ambiguous andpollinators not comprehensively understood. This is especially true for amenity grassland and extensively managed wastelands within large-scale residential housing areas. Using Berlin as study region, we aimed to investigate (a) if these greenspaces are accepted by wild bee assemblages as foraging habitats; (b) how assemblage structure of bees and individual bee species are affected by different habitat (e.g., management, flower density) and urban matrix variables (e.g., isolation, urbanization); and (c) to what extend grassland restoration can promote bees in urban environments. In summer 2012, we collected 62 bee species belonging to more than 20 % of the taxa known for Berlin. Urbanization significantly affected species composition of bees; 18 species were affiliated to different levels of urbanization. Most bee species were not affected by any of the environmental variables tested, and urbanization had a negative effect only for one bee species. Further, we determined that restoration of diverse grasslands positively affected bee species richnesss in urban environments. We conclude that differently structured and managed greenspaces in large-scale housing areas can provide additional foraging habitats and refuges for pollinators. This supports approaches towards a biodiversity friendly management within urban regions and may be of particular importance given that anthropogenic pressure is increasing in many rural landscapes.

Grasshopper sampling

First field work within the BIBS project finished

We finished the grasshopper sampling last week! More than 60 urban dry grasslands had been sampled during summer and we are now happy to have a first extensive dataset for the BIBS project. In all, we acoustically and visually assessed more than 4000 grasshopper individuals with 22 species – including some very interesting species such as Calliptamus italicus. We are looking forward to first functional diversity analyses in the next few weeks.

Birding in Berlin

Urban birds of prey

Several raptor species become more and more urban dwellers and they thrive very well in many different urban habitats now. In Berlin, four species are very common – even in heavily urbanised areas. While the common buzzard (Buteo buteo) mostly inhabits parks and urban woodlands, aeries of the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) can be found in higher buildings all over the city. The latter can be regularly seen at the Tempelhofer Feld (see photo) and a good place to observe the peregrine falcon is the Alexanderplatz and the television tower which is used as raised hide, even during the night. kestrel

In the last years, we conducted research on the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). Interestingly, this species spreads more and more into the heavily urbanised areas and while it was breeding in urban parks and large gardens at the beginning, aeries can be found in backyards in isolated tree by now. Sometimes northern goshawks are even hunting in busy roads like the Schlesische Straße in Kreuzberg. Watch out for more findings …

New paper on urban biodiversity

Biodiversity functions of urban cemeteries: evidence from one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe has been accepted for publication in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

Authors Kowarik I, Buchholz S, von der Lippe M & Seitz B

Abstract As the world becomes more urbanized, urban cemeteries may become increasingly valuable for biodiversity conservation as cemeteries are ubiquitous elements of the green infrastructure in cities worldwide. By implementing a multi-taxon approach at different spatial extents, we analyzed habitat functions of a large urban cemetery in Berlin (Weißensee Jewish Cemetery) and explored related environmental variables. This cemetery is an outstanding cultural heritage site but it also stands for old urban cemeteries that have progressed to urban woodland, an ecosystem type that exists in many regional and religious contexts. The cemetery provided a habitat for 604 species; species of conservation concern comprised 1.6–100% of total species among different groups of taxa (in decreasing order: bats, birds, lichens, bryophytes, carabids, vascular plants, spiders). Species richness and species composition at the plot level were significantly related to differences in management intensity and resulting vegetation structures but differed among taxonomic groups. In vascular plants, carabids and spiders, the species composition varied significantly with habitat age, and there was a set of characteristic species for different age classes in each species group. Our results thus support the use of differentiated management approaches to maintain habitat heterogeneity by allowing wilderness development in some parts of a cemetery while keeping others more open. Since these aims can be combined with efforts to preserve outstanding grave architectures and allow access to visitors, our study indicates ways of reconciling conflicting aims of heritage preservation and biodiversity conservation, a promising perspective for biodiversity conservation in culturally shaped urban landscapes. We conclude that cemeteries provide important cultural ecosystem services within the urban green infrastructure.