We often think of humans as having a exclusively negative impact on the natural world. But the development and spread of urban areas is having another impact on wildlife. We have effectively generated a new ecosystem, with new niches and opportunities for organisms to exploit, and new pressures to influence them.
A new paper has procured that urbanization is driving the rapid evolution of many species, changing their appearance, sizing, and migratory behaviour. The examine, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, looked at over 1,600 species of both plants and animals, and detected a clear sign of this impact that cities and urban spaces are having on the wildlife that now calls them home.
We find a clear urban signal of phenotypic change and greater phenotypic altered in urbanizing systems is comparable to natural and non-urban anthropogenic, or human-created systems, explainedthe papers result author, Marina Alberti, from the University of Washington. By explicitly connecting urban planning to heritable traits that affect ecosystem function, we can begin to map the implications of human-induced trait changes for ecological and human well-being.
The shifts in how organisms function in the increasingly urban environment have been able to profound impacts on the ecosystems developing in cities. For example, these changes could alter biodiversity, which in turn could change nutrient cycling, water purification, and even food production, or how cancers emerge and spread. Birds have already been be considered to be shifting their migratory patterns, and with recent outbreaks of the H5N1 virus across much of Europe, it could have important repercussions on its dispersal.
But while we are clearly having an impact on the wildlife thatmanages to move into and survive in our cities and urban areas, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Surely many species have been, and will continue to be, extinguished by human action, saidco-author John Marzluff. But we disclose how others are evolving the necessary strategies and physical characteristics to coexist with humanity.
It used to be believe, and was even stated by the parent of evolutionary hypothesi himself, Charles Darwin, that evolution happened at such a glacial pace that we can only see it passing over massive day scales, and preserved in the fossil record for us to decode. But we now know that is no longer the case.
We have a completely different view, write the authors in a separate review newspaper published in thePhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Rapid evolution is passing all around us all the time. Many of the most extreme examples of rapid evolution are associated with human influences, leading to the oft-repeated assertion that humans are the worlds greatest evolutionary force.