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BioVEINS: Connectivity of Urban Green Infrastructure: The Living Veins of a Healthy City


Cities are growing at a pace never seen before. Urbanization and, in particular the associated loss of habitat, negatively affects wildlife. However, urbanization itself is a highly heterogeneous process that depends on several factors (socio-economic, geographic, historical, etc.) and thus the effects on biodiversity have to be put into context. In Europe, urban green spaces (e.g. parks, green roofs, tree pits) might host a unique and rich biota and hence offer opportunities for conservation. How the composition and configuration of these urban green areas affect the different organisms that inhabit cities is still being studied.

As part of the European ERA Net BiodivERsA program, the project BioVEINS aims at investigating the effects of the local an landscape features of urban green spaces on seven taxonomic groups, i.e., vegetation, leaf-dwelling bacteria, lichens, bees, wasps, birds and bats) in seven European cities, i.e., Antwerp, Almada, Lisbon, Paris, Poznan, Tartu and Zurich. These cities differ in their urbanization history and current urban planning. Within this project, the WSL aims to (1) assess the direct and indirect factors affecting biodiversity and (2) to improve city design and planning in an urbanizing world. We used three model organisms, i.e., cavity-nesting bees and wasps and their natural enemies, insectivorous bats, and nocturnal insects, and analyse different responses, including species richness and abundances, taxonomic and functional community composition, trophic interaction activity and network, and reproductive success.

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Trap nest (= bee hotel) installed on a tree. Photo: Marco Moretti, WSL
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Joan Casanelles, PhD student, has placed a total of 80 such trap nests in the urban green spaces of five (out of seven) European cities (Zurich, Paris, Antwerp, Poznan, Tartu). Photo: Marco Moretti, WSL
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Detail of a trap nest. An individual bee is visible in the cardboard tube nest at the left side of the trap nest, while two other tubes have been sealed with mud. Photo: Lucia Villarroya
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Joan Casanelles, PhD student, assesses floral resources in the urban green spaces where the trap nests were installed. Photo: Marco Moretti, WSL
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Lucía Villarroya, MSc student, is preparing a light trap to sample nocturnal invertebrates. The light trap will be installed in the canopy of a tree close to the bat data logger. Photo: Joan Casanelles

"We cannot confine ourselves to the so-called 'natural' entities and ignore the processes and expressions of vegetation now so abundantly provided us by the activities of [humanity]". […] ecology must be applied to conditions brought about by human activity. The “natural” entities and the anthropogenic derivates alike must be analysed in terms of the most appropriate concepts we can find.” (Arthur Tansley 1935, Ecology 16, 284-307).

With these words the ecologist Arthur Tansley highlighted the relevance of anthropogenic ecosystems for the first time in history.