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Urban Habitats

How Plants and Animals Adapt to Cities

GB_0714_UrbanDucksMore than half of the world’s population now resides in cities, and the United Nations projects that 5 billion people will call a city home by 2030. “We need to understand how cities are changing the ecology of the systems they are built on, and how plants and animals are adapting to them,” says Dieter Hochuli, a Ph.D. biologist who specializes in integrative ecology at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

For the most part, plants and animals adapt to urban surroundings using traits that help them survive in their natural habitat, but some scientists predict the pressures of the city, especially pollution, may become so great that evolution may intervene. “We’ve created this whole new habitat that never used to exist here,” remarks Angela Moles, a University of New South Wales (Australia) plant biologist. “There will be some species living here that are not doing so well and there’ll be selection for individuals that can do better in an urban environment.”

“We still have functioning ecosystems, they’re just different from what they were 200 years ago,” comments Hochuli. Some shifts will be irreversible.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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