OL.20.007 – EVOSCOPE : Tracking evolution of urban biodiversity with citizen science to create future-proof green cities

Route: The origin of life - on earth and in the universe

Cluster question: 134 How did life arise and how does evolution work?

Today, more than half of the world’s people live in cities. The impact of urbanisation on the earth’s surface is likely to increase dramatically over the course of this century. Cities are becoming a habitat in their own right: an increasing diversity of wild animals and plants occur there. As such, they form a spectacular example of how humans have become the earth’s dominant ‘ecosystem engineer’. The novel urban habitat, with its noise, heat, chemical pollution, artificial light, impervious surfaces, and exotic species, poses new challenges as well as opportunities for its flora, fauna, and humans. These multifactorial challenges and opportunities lead to rapid evolutionary change. In three integrated work packages, a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, NGOs, municipalities, and urban citizens exploit the fact that each city is a replicated ‘experiment’, allowing us to study the predictability of evolutionary change in cities. This, in turn, will make it possible to develop strategies to steer urban evolution towards the design of liveable, future-proof green cities. In work package 1 (WP1), we will use museum specimens and (field) experiments to measure how fast evolution in urban organisms is occurring and which traits are predictably shared by recently-urbanised species. In work package 2 (WP2), we will use tiny forests and ecological corridors to study the relative importance of (i) isolation, i.e. the reduction of homogenizing gene-flow, and (ii) connectivity, i.e. the preservation and exchange of genetic diversity, for facilitating evolutionary adaptation to the urban environment. In work package 3 (WP3), we will measure the impact on citizen science literacy of the co-creation processes of scientists and citizens as undertaken in WP1 and WP2.


civic science, evolutionary modelling, evolutionary predictability, habitat fragmentation, human-induced rapid evolutionary change (HIREC), urban ecology

Other organisations

Consortium of Natural History Museums, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Dept., European Society for Evolutionary Biology, Extreme Citizen Science Group, Groningen Municipality, IUCN Urban Alliance, IVN Nature Education, Leiden Municipality, Leiden University (LEI), Levend Archief, LIACS, Natuurbank Nederland, Observation.org, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG), Science 4 Nature, Science LinX, Science Shop, Stichting Steenbreek, University College London, University of California at Los Angeles, Vrienden van de Leidse Hortus, Vrienden van het Singelpark, Waarneming.nl, Waarnemingen.be, Werkgroep Stedelijke Ecologie (landelijke vereniging stadsecologen), Zostera B.V.


Organisation Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Name Prof. Dr. M. (Menno) Schilthuizen
E-mail menno.schilthuizen@naturalis.nl
Website https://www.naturalis.nl/en/menno-schilthuizen