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1.  Street lighting changes the composition of invertebrate communities 
Biology Letters  2012;8(5):764-767.
Artificial lighting has been used to illuminate the nocturnal environment for centuries and continues to expand with urbanization and economic development. Yet, the potential ecological impact of the resultant light pollution has only recently emerged as a major cause for concern. While investigations have demonstrated that artificial lighting can influence organism behaviour, reproductive success and survivorship, none have addressed whether it is altering the composition of communities. We show, for the first time, that invertebrate community composition is affected by proximity to street lighting independently of the time of day. Five major invertebrate groups contributed to compositional differences, resulting in an increase in the number of predatory and scavenging individuals in brightly lit communities. Our results indicate that street lighting changes the environment at higher levels of biological organization than previously recognized, raising the potential that it can alter the structure and function of ecosystems.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2012.0216
PMCID: PMC3440964  PMID: 22628095
artificial light pollution; community composition; ground-dwelling invertebrates; high pressure sodium; street lights
2.  Temporal changes in greenspace in a highly urbanized region 
Biology Letters  2011;7(5):763-766.
The majority of the world's population now lives in towns and cities, and urban areas are expanding faster than any other land-use type. In response to this phenomenon, two opposing arguments have emerged: whether cities should ‘sprawl’ into the wider countryside, or ‘densify’ through the development of existing urban greenspace. However, these greenspaces are increasingly recognized as being central to the amelioration of urban living conditions, supporting biodiversity conservation and ecosystem service provision. Taking the highly urbanized region of England as a case study, we use data from a variety of sources to investigate the impact of national-level planning policy on temporal patterns in the extent of greenspace in cities. Between 1991 and 2006, greenspace showed a net increase in all but one of 13 cities. However, the majority of this gain occurred prior to 2001, and greenspace has subsequently declined in nine cities. Such a dramatic shift in land use coincides with policy reforms in 2000, which favoured densification. Here, we illustrate the dynamic and policy-responsive nature of urban land use, thereby highlighting the need for a detailed investigation of the trade-offs associated with different mechanisms of urban densification to optimize and secure the diverse benefits associated with greenspaces.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0025
PMCID: PMC3169039  PMID: 21429910
urbanization; ecosystem services; human population density; urban densification; urban ecology; urban greenspace
3.  Are soils in urban ecosystems compacted? A citywide analysis 
Biology Letters  2011;7(5):771-774.
Soil compaction adversely influences most terrestrial ecosystem services on which humans depend. This global problem, affecting over 68 million ha of agricultural land alone, is a major driver of soil erosion, increases flood frequency and reduces groundwater recharge. Agricultural soil compaction has been intensively studied, but there are no systematic studies investigating the extent of compaction in urban ecosystems, despite the repercussions for ecosystem function. Urban areas are the fastest growing land-use type globally, and are often assumed to have highly compacted soils with compromised functionality. Here, we use bulk density (BD) measurements, taken to 14 cm depth at a citywide scale, to compare the extent of surface soil compaction between different urban greenspace classes and agricultural soils. Urban soils had a wider BD range than agricultural soils, but were significantly less compacted, with 12 per cent lower mean BD to 7 cm depth. Urban soil BD was lowest under trees and shrubs and highest under herbaceous vegetation (e.g. lawns). BD values were similar to many semi-natural habitats, particularly those underlying woody vegetation. These results establish that, across a typical UK city, urban soils were in better physical condition than agricultural soils and can contribute to ecosystem service provision.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0260
PMCID: PMC3169067  PMID: 21508018
soil compaction; urbanization; greenspace; ecosystem services; urban ecology; land-use change
4.  Field-level bird abundances are enhanced by landscape-scale agri-environment scheme uptake 
Biology Letters  2010;6(5):643-646.
Despite two decades of agri-environment schemes (AESs) aimed at mitigating farmland biodiversity losses, the evidence that such programmes actually benefit biodiversity remains limited. Using field-level surveys, we assess the effectiveness of AESs in enhancing bird abundances in an upland area of England, where schemes have been operating for over 20 years. In such a region, the effects of AESs should be readily apparent, and we predict that bird abundances will co-vary with both field- and landscape-scale measures of implementation. Using an information theoretic approach, we found that, for abundances of species of conservation concern and upland specialists, measures of AES implementation and habitat type at both scales appear in the most parsimonious models. Field-level bird abundances are higher where more of the surrounding landscape is included in an AES. While habitat remains a more influential predictor, we suggest that landscape-scale implementation results in enhanced bird abundances. Hence, measures of the success of AESs should consider landscape-wide benefits as well as localized impacts.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2010.0228
PMCID: PMC2936161  PMID: 20410029
landscape-scale conservation; peak district; environmentally sensitive area
6.  The scaling of green space coverage in European cities 
Biology Letters  2009;5(3):352-355.
Most people on the planet live in dense aggregations, and policy directives emphasize green areas within cities to ameliorate some of the problems of urban living. Benefits of urban green spaces range from physical and psychological health to social cohesion, ecosystem service provision and biodiversity conservation. Green space coverage differs enormously among cities, yet little is known about the correlates or geography of this variation. This is important because urbanization is accelerating and the consequences for green space are unclear. Here, we use standardized major axis regression to explore the relationships between urban green space coverage, city area and population size across 386 European cities. We show that green space coverage increases more rapidly than city area, yet declines only weakly as human population density increases. Thus, green space provision within a city is primarily related to city area rather than the number of inhabitants that it serves, or a simple space-filling effect. Thus, compact cities (small size and high density) show very low per capita green space allocation. However, at high levels of urbanicity, the green space network is robust to further city compaction. As cities grow, interactions between people and nature depend increasingly on landscape quality outside formal green space networks, such as street plantings, or the size, composition and management of backyards and gardens.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.0010
PMCID: PMC2679924  PMID: 19324636
urban green space; scaling; human population density

Results 1-6 (6)