Project BUG - Biodiversity along Urban Gradients

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Julie Koch Sheard


The Department for ecosystem services at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research


DKK 700,000




Internationalisation Fellowships


Global change, including urbanisation and climate change is the biggest threat to biodiversity and human alienation from nature is becoming increasingly common. Despite the close proximity, we know very little about the ecology of non-human city dwellers. In and on the soil under our feet, as much as ¼ of living diversity on Earth may be found, including invertebrates such as ants, beetles and spiders. They have adapted to a multitude of microhabitats and microclimates and deliver important ecosystem services, such as decomposition and nutrient cycling. I aim to investigate how ground-foraging and soil-dwelling invertebrates are affected by global change and whether participating in scientific projects affects children's nature relatedness and interest in science.


Forecasts of future development predict that by 2030 urban land cover could almost triple compared to 2000 and human activities are likely to increase global temperatures by 1.5 °C by 2030-2052 compared to pre-industrial levels. These changes may result in the alteration of species communities as some species adapt and thrive, others move to environments that are more suitable, new species arrive and some species go extinct. However, predicting which species will react in which way and mitigating the effects of global change are challenging tasks. Cities may hold the key. Because of the urban heat-island effect, cities are often warmer than their surroundings, providing a unique opportunity to use cities as space-for-time experiments on the effects of future global change.


The research will be carried out as a citizen science project, where families and schools conduct the experiments. Participants will set up pit fall traps, conduct baiting experiments, measure decomposition rates and collect environmental data using microclimate loggers. Invertebrate communities will be characterised based on diversity, abundance and biomass and the effects of factors such as temperature, soil moisture, urbanisation, plant cover and species interactions will be investigated. To determine the effects of participating in scientific projects, participants and a non-participating control group will answer surveys about their relation to nature and science interests before and after participating.

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