Urbanization is rapidly expanding throughout the world. Urban development is such a fast and widespread phenomenon that urbanization has been considered, next to global warming, the largest current threat to biodiversity. The replacement of natural habitats with impervious surfaces and buildings has an unquestionable effect on species compositions, species interactions and population dynamics. Although there is a strong growing literature about the responses of bird communities to urbanization in Europe and North America we have only just started to grasp the surface, and in other regions of the world, particularly those in biodiversity hotspots, it is still very much an unknown.
Comparative studies of urban- and rural-dwelling birds continue to reveal interesting and sometimes surprising differences in behavior (e.g., foraging, communication and migratory behaviors), physiology (e.g., oxidative stress, nutrition and stress hormones), morphology (e.g., plumage pigmentation and body size) and fitness (e.g., reproductive success and survival). Even so, the mechanisms underlying these changes and the extent to which they influence eco-evolutionary dynamics in populations remain poorly understand. A key question on this respect is whether behavioural and physiological modifications brought up by urban life are the consequence of direct acclimation, or indeed represent adaptive phenomena.
This topic will highlight the latest findings and perspectives in the field of urban avian ecology, with a special emphasis on understanding the context dependency of responses to urbanization (i.e., species with different ecological requirements and life-histories, various spatio-temporal scales, and geographic regions). Our aim is to produce new insights, identify key gaps in our understanding, and stimulate new research.
Keywords: urbanization, environmental stress, demography, resource abundance, phenotypic plasticity, birds
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