Aquatic communities in urban microecosystems

Project Details


Aquatic communities in urban microecosystems
Urbanization is one of the major global changes that ecosystems are facing. Urban areas, however, are not lifeless deserts but contain habitats for many species. Ecological communities in aquatic habitats in cities have rarely been studied. This specifically applies to small aquatic systems such as water-filled tree holes, graveyard vases and flower pots colonized by organisms such as aquatic insect larvae. We know very little about these communities, their diversity and structure and the functions they perform. Besides being interesting and understudied habitats of urban diversity, these aquatic microecosystems can be used as model systems for general ecological questions and as indicator systems for the detection of ongoing change. In addition, these habitats provide breeding sites for mosquitoes, among others, invasive and potentially disease-carrying species, and are thus relevant for human health questions, especially under climate change.
Here, we propose to study these aquatic microecosystems in urban areas to understand their structure, diversity, functions and ecosystem services and disservices (decomposition, output of insects, use for vital activities of terrestrial organisms) and how they are affected by various aspects of urbanization. We will use methods established in previous projects, including observational and experimental studies in urban water-filled tree holes, graveyard vases and other microhabitats. Besides censusing aquatic fauna (work packages 1-4) and measuring functions using litterbags (decomposition, WP2 and 4) and modified Malaise traps (insect output, WP2), stable isotope techniques will be employed to construct quantified food webs (WP 1). Wildlife camera traps will allow the quantification of the use of aquatic microecosystems by terrestrial species such as birds and mammals and artificial caterpillars will be used to directly measure terrestrial predation rates (WP3). Two of our work packages (WP2 and 4) include experiments run as Citizen-Science projects. This will improve data availability and society involvement and will facilitate the dissemination of results to the wider public. We will furthermore use an established research network with several collaborators to compare communities in urban aquatic microecosystems between different European cities (Munich, Zurich, London, Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg) to scale up our results across cities of different sizes and climates (WP4).
On completion of the project we will have a better understanding of the diversity, functioning and ecosystem (dis)services of aquatic microhabitats in cities and the effect of urbanization and other environmental variables on them. These results will contribute answers to fundamental ecological questions such as on the coexistence of species and functioning of ecosystems as well as to more applied questions of the conservation of urban diversity and the biocontrol of potential disease vectors.
Short titleAquatische Gemeinschaften in urbanen Mikroökosystemen
Effective start/end date1/12/1930/11/23

Fields of Science and Technology Classification 2012

  • 106 Biology