Program Chairs: Hélène Audusseau

Urban ecology has become a central research field in ecology, probably in part because the urban environment has been identified as one of the main threats to biodiversity. This session aims to give a broad overview of current research in urban entomology at different scales (e.g. in population genetics, on physiological adaptations, or community assembly), in order to deepen our understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the presence or absence and persistence of (certain) species in cities. In this context, as temperature is a major driver of fitness for many ectothermic species, a focus will be given on the impact of urban climate.

Plenary Speakers

Surviving city life: Urbanization filters insect species based on their traits

The conversion of natural and rural lands into urban areas, i.e. urbanization, affects all ecosystem components, with multifaceted repercussions on entomological biodiversity. This is mainly due to the alteration of several environmental parameters in urban environments compared to the surrounding landscape, like increased temperature and high isolation and turnover rates of natural patches. The alteration of environmental conditions in urban areas is expected to select species with traits that make them pre-adapted to urbanization and filter out maladapted species. Based on experimental data obtained with a specific study designed to investigate the urban-driven selective processes acting at multiple spatial scales, I will first provide evidence that the process of urbanization correlates with a strong decline of insect diversity and abundance. Second, I will demonstrate that urbanization acts as a filter on species traits by analyzing the response of body size at community level of different insect groups and by relating their response to their different dispersal capacity. Third, I will show that communities of ground beetles sampled in the most urbanized sites and landscapes displayed a distinct species composition compared to the most rural ones due to a filtering effect on their traits. More in detail, urban communities were mainly composed by species preferring higher temperatures and with better dispersal capacities compared to rural communities. Overall, by combining the results of the studies carried out during my research, I outline the role of insects as ideal model organisms to address ecological questions on factors shaping urban biodiversity.

Elena Piano

Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology, University of Turin 

The scientific activity of Elena Piano is dedicated to the study of the ecological mechanisms that determine the response of model organisms to anthropogenic environmental disturbance, with a special focus on urban ecology. She started this line of research during her PhD, from 2014 to 2016, during which Elena Piano focused on the taxonomic and functional response of biotic communities to urbanization and land use change. In the frame of her PhD, she had the opportunity to spent six months at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences of Brussels (Belgium). During this international experience, she got involved into an international project whose aim was to use cities as laboratories to unravel eco-evolutionary patterns at both population and community level. In the framework of this project, by using several insect groups as model organisms, she adopted advanced statistical techniques to investigate how urbanization filter species based on their functional traits. 

Thanks to her involvement into this urban ecology project, Elena Piano conceived and lead the writing of a project proposal on urban ecology that allowed her to obtain a post-doc position in 2017. Her project aimed at unravelling the main ecological mechanisms that determine species and trait distribution in urban areas using spiders and ground beetles as model organisms, thanks to the use of an innovative sampling design, combined with the application advanced statistical techniques. 

In parallel to her interest in urban ecology, Elena Piano also carried out research activities in freshwater and subterranean ecology from 2018 to 2020, focusing on the effects of climate change on the distribution and thermal tolerance of subterranean arthropod species. In 2020, she won a post-doc position dedicated to the study of touristic impacts in show caves. Besides supporting and leading the research with her expertise, she is also playing an important role to the project management by coordinating the research units, combining all the data and by performing the statistical analyses.

In 2022, Elena Piano won a position as Tenure Track Researcher and is currently involved in the National Biodiversity Centre, a high budget project financed by the Recovery and Resilience Plan, where she provides her expertise to study which management actions can improve arthropod biodiversity in urban areas.

Non-floral plants for pollinator conservation in urban landscape
Pollinator conservation is a global priority these days. Most of the pollinator restoration and conservation initiatives have given thrust to improve floral resources of landscapes. As a result, some studies report a positive effect, but some other studies including meta-analyses report a sub-optimal response in pollinator diversity and abundance. This make researchers and citizen scientists to realize the necessity to improve nesting opportunities as a tool to improve the population of bee pollinators. Among solitary bees, leafcutter bees have a prominent position. They are all over the world; they are important pollinators of legumes, pulses and oilseeds; and they have been the first in the solitary bees to successfully manage. Leafcutter bees need both floral and non-floral resources from plants for their reproduction and recruitment. In the present talk, I will discuss the drivers of leafcutter bee – leaf interaction and make recommendation for best leaf plants for the conservation of leafcutter bees in urban environment of Asia, and North America.

Palatty Allesh Sinu
Senior Assistant Professor, Central University of Kerala, Kasaragod 671320, Kerala, India 

Dr. Sinu is a member of the teaching faculty of Zoology of the Central University of Kerala, India. He is an ecologist and entomologist by profession. Before joining the University as an assistant professor, he was a scientist of plant protection at Tea Research Association, Tocklai Tea Research Institute, Jorhat, Assam. There, he was successful in developing environmentally viable sustainable pest management practices for tea. He was successful in developing biopesticides for crucial pests the crop faced in Dooars and Assam parts of Northeastern India. At present, he is involved in insect and pollinator ecology research. He has over 12 years of teaching experience and over twenty years of research experience from ATREE-Bangalore, TRA-Assam, The University of Arizona, USA, and the Central University of Kerala. He is an author of 87 research publications and a supervisor of twelve Ph.D. students. He was also honored by the Rashtrapati Bhawan (The Palace of Indian President), New Delhi with the Inspired faculty of central varsities tag in 2015 during the presidential period of Late. Sri. Pranab Mukherjeee. He also has been associated with the Tata Coffee Pvt. Ltd. from 2021 as a consultant.

Adaptation to altered seasonality but not to light pollution in urban Lepidoptera

Urban environments are characterized by higher temperatures and consequently longer growing seasons than surrounding rural areas due to the urban heat island (UHI) effect, and by widespread artificial light at night (ALAN). Both UHI and ALAN likely affect seasonal phenology and life-cycle regulation of insects because the UHI facilitates an extended activity period, whereas ALAN may affect the perceived photoperiod, photoperiod being a key environmental cue for life-cycle regulation. We studied urban evolution of seasonal life-history plasticity in the butterfly Pieris napi and the moth Chiasmia clathrata. Long-term observations in and around six cities showed that flight seasons are longer and end later in most cities, suggesting a difference in timing of diapause induction. Second, we measured the photoperiodic reaction norms for diapause in these lepdiopterans in two cities. There was a genetic shift in the reaction norms so that the daylength threshold for direct development was lower in urban populations, consistent with reaction norm adaptation to the UHI and not to ALAN. Third, by using C. clathrata from Mid-European and North-European populations, we experimentally tested whether dim ALAN affects diapause induction and if urban populations show adaptations to ALAN. Dim ALAN prevented diapause induction in all populations, this response being stronger in Mid-European populations and indicating no urban adaptation to ALAN. These studies suggest that seasonal life-cycle regulation readily evolves in urban insect populations in relation to the UHI, but not in relation to ALAN. Instead, ALAN seems to create a developmental trap, which may contribute to insect declines.

Sami Kivelä 

Academy research fellow, Ecology and Genetics Research unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland

Sami is a Finnish evolutionary ecologist. Sami received a Master’s degree in animal ecology in 2005 and a PhD in 2011 at the University of Oulu, Finland. Sami's PhD thesis focused on insect life-history evolution by using both theoretical and empirical approaches, Lepidoptera being the empirical study system. This line of research still continues, but Sami's research has also extended to new topics and taxa, including physiology, behavioral ecology, birds, and more recently also community ecology to better understand the roles insects have in ecosystems. Since receiving the PhD degree, Sami has worked also as a post-doc at Stockholm University, Sweden, in 2013-2015, and as a senior research fellow at University of Tartu, Estonia, in 2017. Currently, Sami is a university researcher at University of Oulu.


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