CLM Spring issue 2018 - Page 42

Living with mammals: an urban study
Living with mammals:
an urban study
David Wembridge and
Steve Langton
A 12-year study has cast new light upon
mammal population trends in urban
areas, demonstrating the important role
that citizen-science monitoring can play.
Most of us live in urban landscapes. The word
‘urban’ is variously defined in different countries,
but typically it refers to population centres with
more than 2,000 inhabitants (UN 2014). Globally,
more than half of the human population (about
52%) lives in urban areas (UN 2012); in the
UK – where, in England and Wales, the Office of
National Statistics (ONS) uses ‘urban’ to describe
settlements with more than 10,000 inhabitants –
four-fifths of us are urban-dwellers (Defra 2012),
occupying about a tenth of the land area (Davies
et al. 2011). Within these urban regions, domestic
gardens, recreational grounds, cemeteries, allotments, brownfield sites and other areas provide a
mosaic of habitats with environmental benefits for
local communities. The importance of this ‘green
infrastructure’ in providing what are sometimes
called ‘ecosystem services’ and in wildlife conservation is increasingly recognised (e.g. Alcock et al.
2014; Goddard et al. 2010; Pugh et al. 2012), but
the extent of green space is largely unquantified
A Hedgehog exploring an urban garden.
Paul Hobson/FLPA
(CABE 2010) and it is not systematically monitored
(UNEP 2011). Notwithstanding this, obligations
exist under domestic and European law to monitor
the protected species such as Hedgehog Erinaceus
europaeus, bats, shrews and Badger Meles meles
that make use of these spaces.
The value of interactions between people and
the wildlife alongside which they live is difficult to
quantify (Soulsbury & White 2015), but there is
some evidence to suggest that the health and wellbeing benefits of green space increase with greater
biodiversity (Fuller et al. 2007). Increased urbanisation, however, generally reduces species richness
across taxa (McKinney 2008). In Melbourne,
Australia, a study of indigenous mammals found
that, of 54 species present prior to European
settlement, fewer than half had a 95% chance or
more of surviving to the turn of the current century,
and the effect of urbanisation was most marked
for small, ground-dwelling species, with only two
of 15 species likely to be extant in 2000 (van der
Ree & McCarthy 2005). In the UK, changes in
the urban environment continue to put pressure
on populations: the recent State of Nature report
(Burns et al. 2013) found that 59% of the 658
urban species assessed had declined in the previous
188 British Wildlife February 2016
BWM27_3 09 mammal survey.indd 188
29/01/2016 13:56


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