Evolution of life in urban environments
Vol. 358, Issue 6363, eaam8327
The extent of urban areas is increasing around the world, and most humans now live in cities. Urbanization results in dramatic environmental change, including increased temperatures, more impervious surface cover, altered hydrology, and elevated pollution. Urban areas also host more non-native species and reduced abundance and diversity of many native species. These environmental changes brought by global urbanization are creating novel ecosystems with unknown consequences for the evolution of life. Here, we consider how early human settlements led to the evolution of human commensals, including some of the most notorious pests and disease vectors. We also comprehensively review how contemporary urbanization affects the evolution of species that coinhabit cities.
A recent surge of research shows that urbanization affects both nonadaptive and adaptive evolution. Some of the clearest results of urban evolution show that cities elevate the strength of random genetic drift (stochastic changes in allele frequencies) and restrict gene flow (the movement of alleles between populations due to dispersal and mating). Populations of native species in cities often represent either relicts that predate urbanization or populations that established after a city formed. Both scenarios frequently result in a loss of genetic diversity within populations and increased differentiation between populations. Fragmentation and urban infrastructure also create barriers to dispersal, and consequently, gene flow is often reduced among city populations, which further contributes to genetic differentiation between populations.
The influence of urbanization on mutation and adaptive evolution are less clear. A small number of studies suggest that industrial pollution can elevate mutation rates, but the pervasiveness of this effect is unknown. A better studied phenomenon are the effects of urbanization on evolution by natural selection. A growing number of studies show that plant and animal populations experience divergent selection between urban and nonurban environments. This divergent selection has led to adaptive evolution in life history, morphology, physiology, behavior, and reproductive traits. These adaptations typically evolve in response to pesticide use, pollution, local climate, or the physical structure of cities. Despite these important results, the genetic basis of adaptive evolution is known from only a few cases. Most studies also examine only a few populations in one city, and experimental validation is rare.
STOP THE WILLIAMS FRACKED GAS PIPELINE THROUGH NY HARBOR!
MY TOP 5 FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT NY HARBOR
1. Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City by Leslie Day
2.Heartbeats in the Muck by John Waldman
3. The Fisheries of Raritan Bay by Clyde L. MacKenzie Jr.
4. Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate
5. The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell