As the population of the planet edges closer to 70% urban, the direct and indirect pressures this has on global ecosystems is increasing at a rapid and currently unsustainable rate. While the rise of cities has led to the decline of biodiversity, cities themselves have become home to numerous species and an ecology of their own. No two cities are the same and this makes studying ecological processes in cities fascinating, challenging and often surprising. Urban ecologists explore the nature in cities and the nature of cities. They ask - what happens to wild species within an urban context? Urban ecology explores the inter-relationships between ecological processes, functions and services and human, modified and dynamic systems. It also explores human-nature interactions in cities and how biodiversity can be sustained in ever-expanding cities, especially with human and plant populations becoming ever more remote from their wild hinterlands. Urban ecologists are now asking if re-naturing can provide positive solutions to building healthy and liveable cities.
The urban ecology research group studies urban ecosystems from multiple angles including how species adapt and survive in rapidly-changing cities; what new and novel ecosystems exist in urban areas; how urban habitats are interact and connect to non-urban habitats; what functions and services urban ecosystems may have; what values urban nature may have for societies; and whether nature can offer solutions to address climate and other environmental issues. Indeed, ‘nature-based solutions’, such as those being explored through our €12m Connecting Nature project, have to the potential to expand existing or create new urban ecosystems while also tackling the some of the social and environmental problems that are associated with an urbanising society.