Urbanization poses several social, environmental, and ecological problems that, in combination, threaten biodiversity and several aspects of human well-being. Because of this, it is essential to be able to measure the intensity of such elements in a holistic manner. The research group aims to generate a quantitative metric that is adaptable and useful, considering the social, physical, and biological dimensions of cities. The goal is for this metric to be used by governments to redirect resources for the benefit of the citizenry, allowing all people to have access to nature and enjoy the psychological and health benefits that natural areas provide, as well as to create more sustainable, resilient, and livable cities.
The research group is currently carrying out different surveys across the city of Lahti, following a citywide survey approach. This kind of survey scheme consists of establishing a grid on top of the urban continuum polygon of the city and placing survey points covering all the city and its greenspaces. The research group is keen on knowing the response of different biodiversity groups (e.g., mammals, birds, insects, plants) to a variety of urban attributes (e.g., noise, building cover, pedestrians, cars) and urban-related threats (e.g., cats, dogs, windows). Considering the history, urban characteristics, and the large number of greenspaces within the city, Lahti has the potential to be an interesting urban ecology laboratory to frame a large variety of research questions.
An ongoing topic in the research group is to evaluate the shifts in richness and composition of diverse bio-indicator groups in relation to several variables linked to the urban elements of cities, as well as seasonal variation and changes during extreme conditions. Such is the case of the recent ‘anthropause’ experienced in several cities around the world when during the COVID-19 pandemic: strict mobility restrictions and quarantines were put in place by governments. During this time period, some wildlife groups experienced changes in their presence and abundance in and around cities and interesting research questions were raised from the observed shifts in diversity.
Responses of wildlife to urbanization are differential. In the case of birds, there are several responses depending on the taxonomic group. Many bird species thrive in cities and their behavior is sometimes quite different from that of populations that live in undisturbed environments where only natural resources are available. Bird behavior can be a parameter to learn about the effects and outcomes of the urbanization processes and how wildlife can adapt to the presence of both new resources and different kinds of disturbances related to human presence.
Bird deaths related to the presence of urban structures are considered to be among the most worrisome avian conservation problems worldwide. Over one billion bird deaths annually –just in North America– due to window collisions represent a dark panorama for bird communities in cities; yet, the magnitude of this threat could actually be higher, as there is not enough information or estimations of this phenomenon outside USA and Canada. In this research group, we are currently gathering data with the goal of understanding this issue and proposing science-driven solutions focused on reducing and preventing these accidents to benefit the conservation of urban biodiversity.