Invasive species in urban environments

Theme: Biodiversity, Ecology & Conservation

Primary Supervisor:

Alan Gange

School of Biological Sciences, RHUL

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Secondary Supervisor:

Rob Francis

Department of Geography, KCL

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Project Description:

There is much interest in managing green space in urban environments for public recreation and biodiversity enhancement. The latter aspects are generally focused on species of conservation concern or that deliver ecosystem services (e.g. pollinators). Far less attention has been paid to the occurrence of invasive species in our towns and cities, yet these represent one of the most important threats to biodiversity worldwide.

Focusing on plants and insects in particular, we will attempt to understand the ecology of invasive species in the urban environment. Do habitats such as green roofs and brownfield sites provide opportunities for invasive species to occur and if so, how do they get there? Can these species use urban-rural corridors such as rivers, roads and railways to spread into or out of an urban environment? If urban habitats are lacking in native species, does this mean they are more prone to invasion?

We will also examine whether there are invasive species of the future present in urban locations. Many invasive plants in the UK are garden escapes and urban areas represent large numbers of gardens close together. Is there evidence that garden escapes are colonizing urban green spaces and becoming established?

This project will be mainly field based, but will also incorporate desk top work, including meta analysis. Its aim is to provide sound ecological evidence that can be used by planners and architects in current and future urban design.

Policy Impact of Research:

This work will have impact in urban planning and for architects designing new buildings and urban spaces. It will also feed into policy documents for the management of urban green spaces and brownfield areas.

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