Exotic species enter through the city gates

3DLab-member Charly Géron’s second paper recently got featured on www.eoswetenschap.eu! Here is an English translation of the story they brought there:

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Plants from warmer regions feel perfectly at home in our cities. From there, they can colonize the countryside.

Exotic animal and plant species that settle outside their natural range cause biodiversity loss. They can displace indigenous species. To be able to do tackle that issue, it is important that researchers gain insight into how this colonization process takes place.

For 24 exotic plant species that occur in Western Europe, scientists investigated from which climate zones they originated. They also looked at the habitats they tended to colonize in our country. This excercise showed that exotic species that are more often found in urban areas generally come from warmer and drier regions.

In cities it is often several degrees warmer than in the surrounding countryside. This is a result of the so-called heat island effect, caused by the large amounts of stone and concrete in the city. It is also often drier in cities because the large percentage of impervious surfaces prevent water from seeping into the ground. ‘This connection between urbanity and climate of origin is therefore not surprising, but it had never been thoroughly investigated before,’ explains ecologist and author Charly Géron (UAntwerpen and ULiège).

‘Cities can serve as an outpost from which exotic species can colonize other areas when it gets hotter and drier there as well,’ says Géron. ‘In addition to the direct negative impact of urbanization on nature, this favouring of non-native species provides an additional negative effect of cities.’ Better monitoring of which species are popping up in cities could help nip the advance of exotics in the bud at an early stage, the scientists suggest.

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