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Seed Beetle Abundance and Diversity in Urban and Rural Sites

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The spread of urbanization leads to habitat fragmentation and deterioration and changes the composition of ecosystems for species all over the world. Different groups of organisms are impacted differently, and insects have experienced loss in diversity and abundance due to

The spread of urbanization leads to habitat fragmentation and deterioration and changes the composition of ecosystems for species all over the world. Different groups of organisms are impacted differently, and insects have experienced loss in diversity and abundance due to changing environmental factors. Here, I collected seed beetles across 12 urban and rural sites in Phoenix, Arizona, to analyze the effects of urbanization and habitat variation on beetle diversity and abundance. I found that urbanization, host tree origin, and environmental factors such as tree diversity and density had no impact on overall beetle diversity and abundance. Beetles were found to have higher density on hosts with a higher density of pods. In assessing individual beetle species, some beetles exhibited higher density in rural sites with native trees, and some were found more commonly on nonnative tree species. The observed differences in beetle density demonstrate the range of effects urbanization and environmental features can have on insect species. By studying ecosystem interactions alongside changing environments, we can better predict the role urbanization and human development can have on different organisms.

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2018-05

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Handling the Heat: Plasticity of an Arthropod Pest in Response to the Urban Heat Island

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In recent years, ecologists have begun to study the effects of urbanization on species diversity. While urban areas generally suffer decreased biodiversity, some species, termed “urban exploiters”, not only live in the city but depend on urban resources to thrive.

In recent years, ecologists have begun to study the effects of urbanization on species diversity. While urban areas generally suffer decreased biodiversity, some species, termed “urban exploiters”, not only live in the city but depend on urban resources to thrive. It is hypothesized that urban exploiters may succeed in part due to phenotypic plasticity, in which organisms rapidly adjust their physiology or behavior to adapt to novel environmental contexts. In the city, it may be adaptive to display thermal plasticity, as the urban heat island effect caused by concrete and asphalt infrastructure prevents cooling at night. In this study, we observed the decorated cricket Gryllodes sigillatus, an invasive urban exploiter found in metropolitan Phoenix, in two separate experiments. We hypothesized that heat tolerance and activity are both plastic traits in this species. In Experiment 1, we predicted that knock-down time, a measure of heat tolerance, would be negatively affected by acclimation to a laboratory environment. Our results suggest that heat tolerance is affected by recent thermal regimes and that laboratory acclimation decreases knock-down time. In Experiment 2, we predicted that activity would increase with temperature until a point of extreme heat, at which point activity would decline. Statistical analysis for the second experiment reveals that activity decreases at 33°C, a natural urban extreme. This suggests either that 33°C is a thermal limit to physiology or that G. sigillatus is able to alter its behavior to exploit local thermal heterogeneity.

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2015-05

Urbanization alters herbivore rodent composition but not abundance

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Desert ecosystems are one of the fastest urbanizing areas on the planet. This rapid shift has the potential to alter the abundances and species richness of herbivore and plant communities. Herbivores, for example, are expected to be more abundant in

Desert ecosystems are one of the fastest urbanizing areas on the planet. This rapid shift has the potential to alter the abundances and species richness of herbivore and plant communities. Herbivores, for example, are expected to be more abundant in urban desert remnant parks located within cities due to anthropogenic activities that concentrate food resources and reduce native predator populations. Despite this assumption, previous research conducted around Phoenix has shown that top-down herbivory led to equally reduced plant biomass. It is unclear if this insignificant difference in herbivory at rural and urban sites is due to unaltered desert herbivore populations or altered activity levels that counteract abundance differences. Vertebrate herbivore populations were surveyed at four sites inside and four sites outside of the core of Phoenix during fall 2014 and spring 2015 in order to determine whether abundances and richness differ significantly between urban and rural sites. In order to survey species composition and abundance at these sites, 100 Sherman traps and 8 larger wire traps that are designed to attract and capture small vertebrates such as mice, rats, and squirrels, were set at each site for two consecutive trap nights. Results suggest that the commonly assumed effect of urbanization on herbivore abundances does not apply to small rodent herbivore populations in a desert city, as overall small rodent abundances were statistically similar regardless of location. Though a significant difference was not found for species richness, a significant difference between small rodent genera richness at these sites was observed.

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2016-05

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The effects of urbanization and human disturbance on problem solving in juvenile house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus)

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Urbanization exposes wildlife to many unfamiliar environmental conditions, including the presence of novel structures and food sources. Adapting to or thriving within such anthropogenic modifications may involve cognitive skills, whereby animals come to solve novel problems while navigating, foraging, etc.

Urbanization exposes wildlife to many unfamiliar environmental conditions, including the presence of novel structures and food sources. Adapting to or thriving within such anthropogenic modifications may involve cognitive skills, whereby animals come to solve novel problems while navigating, foraging, etc. The increased presence of humans in urban areas is an additional environmental challenge that may potentially impact cognitive performance in wildlife. To date, there has been little experimental investigation into how human disturbance affects problem solving in animals from urban and rural areas. Urban animals may show superior cognitive performance in the face of human disturbance, due to familiarity with benign human presence, or rural animals may show greater cognitive performance in response to the heightened stress of unfamiliar human presence. Here, I studied the relationship between human disturbance, urbanization, and the ability to solve a novel foraging problem in wild-caught juvenile house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus). This songbird is a successful urban dweller and native to the deserts of the southwestern United States. In captivity, finches captured from both urban and rural populations were presented with a novel foraging task (sliding a lid covering their typical food dish) and then exposed to regular periods of high or low human disturbance over several weeks before they were again presented with the task. I found that rural birds exposed to frequent human disturbance showed reduced task performance compared to human-disturbed urban finches. This result is consistent with the hypothesis that acclimation to human presence protects urban birds from reduced cognition, unlike rural birds. Some behaviors related to solving the problem (e.g. pecking at and eying the dish) also differed between urban and rural finches, possibly indicating that urban birds were less neophobic and more exploratory than rural ones. However, these results were unclear. Overall, these findings suggest that urbanization and acclimation to human presence can strongly predict avian response to novelty and cognitive challenges.

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2015-05

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Examining sex and urban-rural differences in preen oil composition in the house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

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Self-maintenance behaviors, like preening in birds, can have important effects on fitness in many animals. Birds produce preen oil, which is a mixture of volatile and non-volatile compounds, that is spread through their feathers during grooming and influences feather integrity,

Self-maintenance behaviors, like preening in birds, can have important effects on fitness in many animals. Birds produce preen oil, which is a mixture of volatile and non-volatile compounds, that is spread through their feathers during grooming and influences feather integrity, waterproofing, and coloration. As urban areas grow and present conditions that may demand increased feather self-maintenance (e.g. due to soiling, pollution, elevated UV exposure due to natural habitat alterations), it is important to examine how preening and preen oil may be affected by this process. I assessed variation in preen oil composition in house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) as a function of sex, urbanization, and plumage hue, a sexually selected indicator of male quality. Preen oil samples from birds captured at urban and rural sites were analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. We detected 18 major peaks, which we tentatively identified as esters, and found that, although there were no sex or urban-rural differences in preen oil constituents, there was a significant interactive effect of sex and urbanization, with rural females and urban males having higher amounts of some components. This suggests that factors that vary with sex or urbanization, such as the timing of seasonal cycles, are affecting preen oil composition. There were no significant relationships between coloration and preen oil composition, suggesting that preen oil composition does not vary with male quality.

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2015-05

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A Review on the Generation, Determination and Mitigation of Urban Heat Island

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Urban Heat Island (UHI) is considered as one of the major problems in the 21st century posed to human beings as a result of urbanization and industrialization of human civilization. The large amount of heat generated from urban structures, as

Urban Heat Island (UHI) is considered as one of the major problems in the 21st century posed to human beings as a result of urbanization and industrialization of human civilization. The large amount of heat generated from urban structures, as they consume and re-radiate solar radiations, and from the anthropogenic heat sources are the main causes of UHI. The two heat sources increase the temperatures of an urban area as compared to its surroundings, which is known as Urban Heat Island Intensity (UHII). The problem is even worse in cities or metropolises with large population and extensive economic activities. The estimated three billion people living in the urban areas in the world are directly exposed to the problem, which will be increased significantly in the near future. Due to the severity of the problem, vast research effort has been dedicated and a wide range of literature is available for the subject. The literature available in this area includes the latest research approaches, concepts, methodologies, latest investigation tools and mitigation measures. This study was carried out to review and summarize this research area through an investigation of the most important feature of UHI. It was concluded that the heat re-radiated by the urban structures plays the most important role which should be investigated in details to study urban heating especially the UHI. It was also concluded that the future research should be focused on design and planning parameters for reducing the effects of urban heat island and ultimately living in a better environment.

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2007-09-27